Jazz on Film: French New Wave Vol 3

French New Wave
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Artist: Various
Genre: Jazz
Label: Jazz on Film Recordings

It was a match made in a very hip kind of heaven. The brief encounter between musicians of jazz's post-be-bop era and the directors of the French nouvelle vague in the late 1950s and early '60s broke the mould for film scoring and gave the world a new definition of "cool". It's hard to imagine Louis Malle's Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud without Miles Davis's ethereal trumpet haunting every scene. Or Jean-Luc Godard's genre-defining À Bout de Souffle/Breathless without pianist Martial Solal's witty pastiche of jazz and film noir.

American jazz musicians had been visiting Paris since the 1930s, drawn by the relaxed attitude to various forms of intoxication, but also because it was here that they first gained the respect they deserved. Those who were barred from certain hotels back home were welcomed by the demimonde of Paris, and their music became the soundtrack to the lush lives being played out on the left bank of the Seine.

So it was inevitable that when the young new wave started making their own movies they would enlist modern jazz to signal a rejection of what they saw as tired formulas. Improvisation played an important part in both art forms; the music here has a filmic quality that makes it the perfect soundtrack for anyone who wants to play Jean Seberg or Jean-Paul Belmondo for a day.

UK jazz writer Selwyn Harris has already produced two well-received box sets in the Jazz on Film series, Film Noir (2011) and Beat, Square & Cool (2012). This third set maintains the same high standards. Handsomely packaged, with copious liner notes, the five-CD box set features remasterings of seven films. Some are well known, such as the Malle/Davis collaboration and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers score for Roger Vadim's Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Some are less so, such as Michel Legrand's masterful score for Joseph Losey's Eva. It's the perfect Christmas present for film buffs and jazzers alike. jazzonfilmrecords.com

Cormac Larkin

Cormac Larkin

Cormac Larkin, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a musician, writer and director