When bad things happen to great musicians: The role of ambi-diegetic jazz in three tragedepictions of artistic genius on the silver screen

Morris B. Holbrook
2007 Jazz Research Journal  
Earlier work has shown how jazz can deepen the meanings of a cinematic experience; can enrich the development of plot, character, or other dramatic themes in a motion picture; and can contribute to various aspects of a film's significance. Conversely, the present essay focuses on how this cinemusical process can break down-leading to unsatisfactory or problematic results-especially in a jazz biopic that portrays the life of a great musician. In this connection, dwelling on the dark side of
more » ... tic genius, the essay discusses how cinemusical uses of jazz have failed to provide the needed dramatic effects-falling short of conveying the essence of true tragedy-in three major tragedepictions portraying the undeniably sad lives of Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues (1972); of a Lester Young/Bud Powell/Dexter Gordon composite character in 'Round Midnight (1986); and of Charlie Parker in Bird (1988).
doi:10.1558/jazz.v1i1.99 fatcat:yxvk4sdbyvfszdd75mpoivomqa