JazzTimes 10: Jazz on Film

Ten great examples of what happens when jazz goes to the movies—and the movies go to jazz

7. Paris Blues (1961)
I partly love this one as I do because at one point Paul Newman, who plays a trombonist named Ram Bowen—“Ram it, baby!”—loses his cool when his girl incorrectly says that she feels badly, which causes him to act out the grammatical difference between that and feeling bad. It’s funny, but it makes a point that will stick with you. Sidney Poitier is an expat saxophonist who is pure cool blues. But he’s Poitier, so he’d have to be, right? More fervid is Louis Armstrong as Wild Man Moore. This is, like the Krupa pic, another “should I or shouldn’t I give up on my music” conflict film. Newman commits to domesticity after not being able to handle some simple feedback—which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but hey, it’s a broad-ish, inspirited movie, not honed Chekhovian diegesis. But still punchy. Which is why Newman, in the jazz hero moment, flips back to his music.

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Colin Fleming

Colin Fleming writes fiction and nonfiction on myriad topics—art, film, music, sports, literature—for a wide range of publications. He also talks regularly on the radio for the likes of NPR and Downtown with Rich Kimball. His most recent book, Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls (Tailwinds), was published in 2019, with an entry in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series on Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club to follow in 2020. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com (where you’ll also find his unique online journal, the Many Moments More blog) and on Twitter @colinfleminglit. He lives in Boston and has contributed to JazzTimes since 2006.