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JT Editor Evan Haga Introduces the December 2014 Issue

Whiplashed

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but the most thrilling jazz-related moments I experienced in the past month didn’t have to do with the music covered in this vocal-themed issue. And they weren’t connected to any of the terrific live performances I took in-not even Herbie Hancock’s reunited Mwandishi band at the Apollo, or when Mwandishi multireedist Bennie Maupin stayed onstage with Hancock to awaken the Headhunters on “Chameleon.” No, what really affected me was Whiplash, the recent film, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Miles Teller as an aspiring jazz drummer enrolled at a prestigious Manhattan music school and J.K. Simmons as his band director, a violent, unknowable man who could safely be called a sociopath.

Film scribes have mostly had very positive things to say about Whiplash, but jazz heads on the Internet have been far less kind, writing think pieces if they’re employed as journalists and griping on Facebook if they’re not. That’s a real shame, since so many jazz fans are also film buffs and Whiplash is a dynamite movie. Yes, the bandleader’s bloodthirsty tactics are so heinous they’re laughable, unless you accept them as necessary fictions in a psychodrama. And some of the dialogue has that canned quality that is a common pitfall when digging into subcultural details in a screenplay.

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