Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

My pal Kallipher recently mused on her great love of the soundtrack to City of Angels, and how the breadth of emotion that the songs represent makes it a kind of musical spectrum.  It got me thinking about two of my favorite soundtracks and why the spoke so well to me that I had to run out and purchase them as soon as I finished watching the movie…

Living Out LoudThis is a little-known film from 1998, and it’s an absolute gem.  While Chicago a few years cemented Queen Latifah’s prowess as a singer, she’s extraordinary in this as a jazz singer named Liz, who befriends Holly Hunter’s character following the latter’s divorce.  The opening titles of the movie is the Queen singing “Lush Life,” a 1920’s stunner that some argue is the most difficult piece to sing ever written, and the camera slowly pans around her as she sings, and the background and singer slowly change from jazz club chanteuse to a thirty-something blonde lip-synching in her dark, empty apartment.  It’s haunting, and sets the tone for the rest of the film, which is a story about loneliness, pleasure, and loving oneself.

The Talented Mr. Ripley:  Anyone who’s read this blog in the last few months knows of my obsession with this film when it comes to the visual appeals–the location, the costumes, the props–and the soundtrack is no different.  I was seventeen and just starting to educate myself on jazz, and the presence of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis meant that this disc was constantly in my CD player.  The score, a mix of classical and jazz with a very heavy reliance on vibraphone, perfectly captured the halcyon hubris of the first part of the film and the uneasiness of the second half.  I’m convinced that it played a role in me successfully persuading my alma mater in purchasing a vibraphone that I could play all four years in jazz band.  The key role jazz played in the plot, moreover, gives the term “poseur” a whole new meaning–and I have to admit that I really, really wanted to be in that listening booth with Jude Law and Phillip Seymour Hoffman more than Tom Ripley did.

In fact, not going to any jazz clubs while we were in Italy was a bit of a bummer, but clearly is just one more reason why I have to go back.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s a favorite scene frim Living Out Loud where Holly Hunter takes a hit of X and has a blast at a decidedly Sapphic after-hours club:

And the adorable Matt Damon singing “My Funny Valentine” in the film’s offical music video:



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            Anthony Minghella passed away yesterday at the too-young age of 54, thanks to a brain hemorrhage.  This is terrible news on many accounts:  he leaves behind a son who seems to be following in his father’s footsteps and who is probably about my age, if not a little younger, he was in the midst of direct Jill Scott in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency for HBO and apparently deemed her a great talent, not to mention he was a talented fucking director.

             I first saw The Talented Mr. Ripley with a friend in the theatre when it was first out—in retrospect, he might have been trying to come onto me, but the homosexual undertone of the film rattled his mojo too much, which was probably in the end a good thing, because at the time I wasn’t interested.  Instead, the film was one performing the primary seduction:  the vibraphone permeating the soundtrack, that first glimpse of Italy that we share with Tom Ripley, the amazing 1950’s expat wardrobes of both Marge and Meredith, the slow overall pace of the film that simply sucked you into that world, that despite its treachery and ominous overtones prevented you from ever wanting to leave.

            It came out in late 1999, when I was a senior in high school and visions of graduation danced in my head.  It was also around the time that I had started slowly integrating jazz into my musical repertoire, a process that had started two years prior and that received a much-needed boost thanks to this film.  The amazing amount of vibraphone, both in the score and continued with Sinead O’Connor’s “Lullaby for Cain” and Miles Davis’ “Nature Boy”, also prompted me to then successfully lobby for a vibraphone when I matriculated to college and play in the jazz band for all four years, despite the fact that my talent was eclipsed by those much, much better than me.  It was also partially responsible for recently purchasing a set of huge headphones to listen to all of this music thanks to one of my favorite scenes that have Dickie and Freddie in a record store listening booth.           

             So this weekend, when I am trying to fall asleep in my old bedroom as I “celebrate” Easter, this will be accompanying me on my trip.  I’d watch it on the train while drinking a glass of wine, but need dictates me to slog through I-95 traffic instead.

             At least I’ll have a place to make a daydream escape to, and for that, I thank Mr. Minghella.  RIP.

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John Coltrane, Coltrane Live at the Village Vangaurd Again!, recorded 1966, photo taken 3:27 PM, 12/26/07.

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