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 Posted:   May 12, 2006 - 8:26 PM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

The popular culture always portrays Film Noir as having a slow, smoky and Jazzy musical accompaniment, yet when watching 1940s Film Noirs, the music sounds totally the opposite, very loud, melodramatic and European. So when exactly did Jazz become associated with Film Noir? Was it a gradual "Americanization" seeing as many of the films were made in Hollywood by European directors and European composers who drew on their own classical backgrounds? And what was the first Noir to feature a Jazz-influenced score?

 
 
 Posted:   May 12, 2006 - 8:33 PM   
 By:   SPQR   (Member)

www.greenwood.com/catalog/C7301.aspx

 
 Posted:   May 12, 2006 - 8:33 PM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

The early noirs were all scored in that heavy dark, romantic mysterioso sound that Rozsa and other mittle Europa composers were steeped in. I'm not sure who pioneered jazz in film noir, but North's Streetcar Named Desire, while not Noir, has a Noir like atmosphere and certainly was an influential turning point in jazz scoring in movies and probably contributed to the transition. I'm sure I'll think of others. I love the genre.

 
 
 Posted:   May 12, 2006 - 8:38 PM   
 By:   musickco   (Member)

I seem to recall David Raksin's music for The Big Combo being very jazzy.

 
 Posted:   May 12, 2006 - 10:19 PM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

PHANTOM LADY!!!

 
 
 Posted:   May 12, 2006 - 10:37 PM   
 By:   The_Mark_of_Score-O   (Member)

I don't know that jazz was ever used to score real Films Noirs.

In his Noirs Miklós Rózsa used jazz only as source cues (he knew little about jazz, other than that he didn't like it), which were dictated by the locale in which the scene took place. Those source cues were almost always used to underline how seedy the venue was, and dissolute the characters are.

Jazz didn't really become a form of musical currency until after the era of real Noir had ended, and composers such as Elmer Bernstein and Henry Mancini had entered the Industry.

 
 Posted:   May 12, 2006 - 10:41 PM   
 By:   RcM   (Member)

I would also suggest that radio dramas from the 40s and 50s had some influence on this. Many of the detective shows had jazz-tinged scores - and the narrative style was very similar to Film Noir. Listen to an episode of "Night Beat" for example...

 
 
 Posted:   May 13, 2006 - 3:40 AM   
 By:   Paul MacLean   (Member)

Jazz is a musical style with urban roots. Film Noir is an urban genre. I think the two were fated to meet. Smoky jazz clubs echoing with sensual saxophone riffs are a "noir-ish" settings, populated questionable characters, loose women and other perils to entice and entrap the naive.


Paul

 
 Posted:   May 13, 2006 - 4:14 AM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

I don't know that jazz was ever used to score real Films Noirs.

In his Noirs Miklós Rózsa used jazz only as source cues (he knew little about jazz, other than that he didn't like it), which were dictated by the locale in which the scene took place. Those source cues were almost always used to underline how seedy the venue was, and dissolute the characters are.

Jazz didn't really become a form of musical currency until after the era of real Noir had ended, and composers such as Elmer Bernstein and Henry Mancini had entered the Industry.


Cue FSM's great CD of Rozsa's 'The World, the Flesh and the Devil' a movie that greatly influenced 'The Omega Man'. Go to Track 9, 'Dummies/Light/Shadowdance.' Then look at Jeff & Lukas' notes:

"Jazz is not the answer for everything in life. There are certain things where its very good, but I don't see why the underworld should be jazzy.... there are no jazzy types at all to my mind. In fact they are rather sinister." .... MIKLOS ROZSA.

Jazz would have been the musical taste of many underworld types in the 40s/50s. So it's 'source' in that respect, but this cue shows Rozsa could WRITE jazz as well as the next. (Does anyone know if Rozsa actually scores the 'Shoot the pianist' segment in 'The Killers'?) Rozsa wrote jazzy ragtime pieces under the pseudonym 'Nick Tomay' to make ends meet, when he was a cafe student in Paris in the 30s. Daniel Robbins included a few of these on a piano album. Here we see that Rozsa sees jazz really as a light-hearted 'flapper' bon vivant thing and not at all 'dark'.

Then again, TRUE jazz is improvisation, so for example Waxman's 'Crime in the Streets' is only jazz INSPIRED, as would be Bernstein's 'Golden Arm' and 'Walk on the Wild Side'.

(Although Rozsa often said he disliked jazz, and condemned Previn for focussing on such for a time, I don't think he hated it. His overcompensating was born out of a desire to be taken seriously as a Classical concert composer, whilst deflecting people's prejudices against his film career. He just didn't want to be written off prematurely because of associations and misconceptions. He was sending out signals about who he WASN'T.)

 
 
 Posted:   May 13, 2006 - 9:29 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

Rosza's "Asphalt Jungle" theme has a jazz quality to it.

 
 Posted:   May 13, 2006 - 6:40 PM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

The popular culture always portrays Film Noir as having a slow, smoky and Jazzy musical accompaniment, yet when watching 1940s Film Noirs, the music sounds totally the opposite, very loud, melodramatic and European. So when exactly did Jazz become associated with Film Noir? Was it a gradual "Americanization" seeing as many of the films were made in Hollywood by European directors and European composers who drew on their own classical backgrounds? And what was the first Noir to feature a Jazz-influenced score?

This point is accurate.
All those jazzy noir scores are in fact imitating John Barry's BODY HEAT!

The original's were never scored with jazz>

bruce marshall

 
 Posted:   May 13, 2006 - 7:05 PM   
 By:   Stefancos   (Member)



This point is accurate.
All those jazzy noir scores are in fact imitating John Barry's BODY HEAT!


Chinatown has a jazzy score.
It predates Body Heat.

 
 Posted:   May 13, 2006 - 7:10 PM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)



Chinatown has a jazzy score.
It predates Body Heat.


But that's not the score being imitated by the clueless hacks on Madison ave et al.

 
 Posted:   May 13, 2006 - 9:26 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)



This point is accurate.
All those jazzy noir scores are in fact imitating John Barry's BODY HEAT!

The original's were never scored with jazz>

bruce marshall


Why does everyone assume Barry is the god behind everything here?! Look at 'Taxi-Briver' or 'Crime in the Streets' or 'Man With the Golden Arm' or 'Touch of Evil' .... or for that matter any of a dozen FSM jazz releases from the 50s/60s!!!!!!!

 
 Posted:   May 13, 2006 - 9:57 PM   
 By:   RcM   (Member)

Not to mention Henry Mancini's Peter Gunn!

 
 
 Posted:   May 13, 2006 - 11:45 PM   
 By:   quiller007   (Member)



Why does everyone assume Barry is the god behind everything here?! Look at 'Taxi-Briver' or 'Crime in the Streets' or 'Man With the Golden Arm' or 'Touch of Evil' .... or for that matter any of a dozen FSM jazz releases from the 50s/60s!!!!!!!


You forgot another one that predates
both TAXI DRIVER and BODY HEAT:
David Shire's FAREWELL, MY LOVELY.
I believe the release date was
1975 and fell right in between CHINATOWN
and TAXI DRIVER.

Den

 
 
 Posted:   May 14, 2006 - 12:52 AM   
 By:   Bill Finn   (Member)

I would suggest than an important score in the nature of film noir came in 1944 with Laura. In the score, David Raksin became quite well known (among jazz musicians) for this theme. And the entire score is based upon it. And it is very much written in Raksin's 'Berg meets Basie' vein that is nearly third stream music at times. Although this score is not what I would call 'sleazy' sounding jazz, or even jazz at all, the theme is of course based on American jazz chords and was subsequently covered by just about every famous jazz pianist at one time or another. Even in the film, it for the most part associated with muted trombone. So it may be a key early score that began to use jazz for film noir. Just my guess at any rate.

 
 Posted:   May 14, 2006 - 1:30 AM   
 By:   Sigerson Holmes   (Member)

Here's kind of an overgeneralized, oversimplified guess: could it have anything to do with budgetary concerns?

With a jazz score, you can probably get away with paying a smaller ensemble, and not compromise the music stylistically, right?

It's also worth noting that film noir arose as a popular genre not only as a result of its precursors in German expressionism, and the influence of that older visual style on the newer Hollywood films directed by European immigrants. It also became a staple of the B-movies because darker, more mysterious-looking black-and-white films can be cheaper to make. You don't have to spend as much on a set or a costume if you're not going to light it.

So it might be a happy coincidence of film history that a less-expensive music style perfectly suits a less-expensive form of filmmaking, as well as it suits the gritty, stark, urban, violent content of the stories those movies often tell.

 
 
 Posted:   May 14, 2006 - 7:22 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

I think Bill Finn is on to something.

While "pure jazz" wasn't prevalent in the early film noirs like THE MALTESE FALCON, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE KILLERS, THE LOST WEEKEND, DARK PASSAGE or OUT OF THE PAST, the modal language in many of these were based on - or were similiar to - the modal language of jazz. I certainly wouldn't call them neo-romantic, anyway.

 
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