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  #1  
Old 04-02-2008, 05:25 AM
DLuxN8R-13 DLuxN8R-13 is offline
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What do you call that frenetic screechy jazz on the soundtrack of old crime dramas?

There's a particular genre or style of jazz which, at least judging from the snatches of it I've listened to, I could probably take a liking to real fast. I don't know anything about the music, though, so I've got no idear what sort of jazz it is, much less which artists played it, maybe some of you old school hipsters could enlighten me?

It's prominent in the soundtrack of many noir or noiresque crime drama flix, starting in or around the mid-1950s and continuing on into the early-to-middle 1960s; usually there seems to be a sort of rubbery, loping bass at the center of it, and maybe a little percussion, stripped down so spare it's nearly skeletal, but hard-driving. And there are always scratchy, almost screamy horn parts played over the rhythm, jagged little bursts of it, staccato scribbles like neon lightning that sometimes slide over into long, crazy wails like Siamese cats in heat in Hell. The combined effect is jittery and driven, electric and somewhat hysterical; the very sound of menace in the urban underbelly. Most of the grim'n'gritty big city crime thrillers of the late B&W era had this species of music on the soundtrack, especially during chase scenes or montages; and if a movie dealt with drug trafficking or dope addicts it was, of course, ubiquitous.

So, then, my question. Much as the topic puts it: is there a name for the subset of jazz that fits the description I gave? It may be just on account of how beautifully it meshes with the down-and-dirty hard-edged ambience of the movies, but I sort of like the cold, feverish, hyperdramatic screeech of it, and would be interested to check out longer passages, even whole songs, maybe, if I had some leads into who played it.

Last edited by DLuxN8R-13; 04-02-2008 at 05:27 AM..
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  #2  
Old 04-02-2008, 06:41 AM
crowmanyclouds crowmanyclouds is offline
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Bebop?
Quote:
... Swing drummers had kept up a steady four-to-the-bar pulse on the bass drum. Bop drummers, led by Kenny Clarke, moved the drumset's time-keeping function to the ride or hi-hat cymbal, reserving the bass drum for accents. Bass drum accents were colloquially termed "dropping bombs." Notable bop drummers such as Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes, and Kenny Clarke began to support and respond to soloists, almost like a shifting call and response.

This change increased the importance of the string bass. Now, the bass not only maintained the music's harmonic foundation, but also became responsible for establishing a metronomic rhythmic foundation by playing a "walking" bass line of four quarter notes to the bar. While small swing ensembles commonly functioned without a bassist, the new bop style required a bass in every small ensemble. ...

... The classic bebop combo consisted of saxophone, trumpet, bass, drums, and piano. This was a format used (and popularized) by both Charlie Parker (alto sax) and Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet) in their 1940s groups and recordings, sometimes augmented by an extra saxophonist or guitar, occasionally adding other horns (often a trombone), or other strings (usually fiddle or violin) or dropping an instrument and leaving only a quartet. ...
or one of it's children?
Quote:
... By the mid-1950s musicians (Miles Davis and John Coltrane among others) began to explore directions beyond the standard bebop vocabulary. Simultaneously, other players expanded on the bold steps of bebop: "cool jazz" or "West Coast jazz", modal jazz, as well as free jazz and avant-garde forms of development from the likes of George Russell. ...
CMC +fnord!
If it is, dude you're about to meet the jazz gods!
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  #3  
Old 04-02-2008, 09:02 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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Have you ever seen the French movie whose English re-title is something like Elevator to the Gallows or Elevator to the Scaffold? It's what came to my mind as something like your OP describes. That's Miles Davis and the music was mainly improvised over the finished film as a soundtrack. Not one of Miles's most popular albums but intriguing nonetheless.

TV dramas I thought of like you describe would have to include Henry Mancini, Pete Rugolo, Billy May and any number of West Coast band leaders who wrote for movies and TV. Their genre bucket is a little hard to pin down, as they wrote in several, and not just jazzy ones.

The Modern Jazz Quartet, with a smooth hornless sound, did a few movies that had a frenetic sound, but far from the horn-influenced sound you describe.

I'd suggest going to IMDB and finding a few specific shows or movies and checking the sound/music credits.

Last edited by Zeldar; 04-02-2008 at 09:03 AM.. Reason: moved a comma
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  #4  
Old 04-02-2008, 09:08 AM
WordMan WordMan is online now
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Crime Jazz! that's an Amazon link to Rhino's "Crime Jazz: Music in the First Degree" - and it rocks!

Here's the songlist:

Quote:
1. Wild One, The - Shorty Rogers & His Orchestra/Bill Perkins
2. Frankie Machine - Elmer Bernstein & Orchestra/Shorty Rogers
3. Staccato's Theme - Buddy Morrow & His Orchestra 4. Stool Pigeon - Irving Joseph
5. Touch Of Evil (Main Title) - Joseph Gershenson/Universal International Orchestra
6. Harold's Way - David Amram
7. Cool - Stan Kenton & His Orchestra
8. 77 Sunset Strip Cha Cha - Warren Barker
9. Daddy Long Legs - Leith Stevens & His Orchestra
10. Street, The (Main Title) - Elmer Bernstein
11. Richard Diamond - Buddy Morrow
12. Stu Bailey Blues, The - Warren Barker
13. Peter Gunn - Quincy Jones
14. Echo Four-Two - Johnny Gregory & His Orchestra
15. Contract With Depravity - Kenyon Hopkins
16. Riff Blues (Theme) - Skip Martin
17. M Squad Theme - Stanley Wilson
18. Naked City - Mundell Lowe & His All Stars
Way too many great songs to pick any one out - but the theme from Richard Diamond just floors me.

Buy this immediately - you will SO thank me.
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  #5  
Old 04-02-2008, 09:32 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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After another reading of the OP, I'd like to add that the music of Bernard Herrman, who was so prolific and almost genre-free, gave us Psycho, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Taxi Driver, and dozens more, but his sound is more full orchestra with the strings being as screechy as the horns.

There are several other composers who wrote mostly for the movies (in a wide variety of styles and genres) whose music is memorable: Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, Andre Previn, Lalo Schifrin, to name a few. It's quite possible they wrote for some specific noir/crime drama and had the instrumentation pared down to just a combo sized grouping.

The Crime Jazz mentioned above is most likely the title of that specific collection of themes, and not a widely used label for the genre itself.
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Old 04-02-2008, 10:18 AM
Zebra Zebra is offline
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I'll second that the jazz style you are talking about is Bebop.
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  #7  
Old 04-02-2008, 10:35 AM
WordMan WordMan is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeldar
The Crime Jazz mentioned above is most likely the title of that specific collection of themes, and not a widely used label for the genre itself.
I agree that Crime Jazz is not an "official genre" name - but it fits! If this CD includes examples of what the OP is looking for, it is most decidedly NOT be-bop. Miles Davis and other jazz players did see their work used in crime movies - and while it is more cool jazz vs. bebop, it is different than what is on that CD I linked to.
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  #8  
Old 04-02-2008, 10:44 AM
Hey, It's That Guy! Hey, It's That Guy! is offline
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Here's a modern example from one of my favorite bands, Steroid Maximus (industrial music pioneer J.G. Thirlwell's side project that pretty much pays tribute to old "crime jazz" and spy movie soundtracks). The horns in particular are exactly what the OP has in mind.

The song is called "L'Espion qui a Pleure":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdlE9NzrtwE
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Old 04-02-2008, 11:10 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Bad Voodoo Lou
Here's a modern example from one of my favorite bands, Steroid Maximus (industrial music pioneer J.G. Thirlwell's side project that pretty much pays tribute to old "crime jazz" and spy movie soundtracks). The horns in particular are exactly what the OP has in mind.

The song is called "L'Espion qui a Pleure":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdlE9NzrtwE
Nice example. The flute reminds me of the soundtrack for Bullitt (Lalo Schifrin) when McQueen meets Bisset in a bistro and a Herbie Mann-sounding flute is being played over a walking bass line. Ultra-cool but still jittery.

Bullitt is set in San Francisco and much of the Cool Jazz of the period was from that same part of California. The Blackhawk, Hungry i, Purple Onion, and other clubs are featured venues for a lot of "live" jazz recordings of the era. And the whole Beatnik thing was a big San Francisco draw before the hippie days and Haight-Ashbury and all that.

Other West Coast names from that period you might want to investigate:

Chet Baker
Gerry Mulligan
Shorty Rogers
Art Pepper
Bud Shank
Shelly Manne
Dave Brubeck
and at least another 50 big names, not all of whom were in the Bebop, Hard Bop, Cool School, West Coast Jazz or other mentioned genres.
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  #10  
Old 04-02-2008, 11:16 AM
MovieMogul MovieMogul is offline
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Here are the opening credits to Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm, which has a seminal jazz score by the great Elmer Bernstein.

And here are the opening credits to Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder, this time with Duke Ellington's marvelous score.
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  #11  
Old 04-02-2008, 11:27 AM
WordMan WordMan is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeldar
Nice example. The flute reminds me of the soundtrack for Bullitt (Lalo Schifrin) when McQueen meets Bisset in a bistro and a Herbie Mann-sounding flute is being played over a walking bass line. Ultra-cool but still jittery.

Bullitt is set in San Francisco and much of the Cool Jazz of the period was from that same part of California. The Blackhawk, Hungry i, Purple Onion, and other clubs are featured venues for a lot of "live" jazz recordings of the era. And the whole Beatnik thing was a big San Francisco draw before the hippie days and Haight-Ashbury and all that.

Other West Coast names from that period you might want to investigate:

Chet Baker
Gerry Mulligan
Shorty Rogers
Art Pepper
Bud Shank
Shelly Manne
Dave Brubeck
and at least another 50 big names, not all of whom were in the Bebop, Hard Bop, Cool School, West Coast Jazz or other mentioned genres.

I would add Teddy Edwards as a great sax player - his Sunset Eyes is a truly great disc.

My parents used to hang out at the Hungry i when they were in SF in the 50's...
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  #12  
Old 04-02-2008, 11:39 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WordMan
I would add Teddy Edwards as a great sax player - his Sunset Eyes is a truly great disc.

My parents used to hang out at the Hungry i when they were in SF in the 50's...
I should have mentioned, WordMan, that the Crime Jazz listing you provided really struck a chord. I'm familiar with about half of those shows and their music and could probably hum or doodle more than a few of them.

I thought it was especially poignant when one episode of The Sopranos combined the theme from Peter Gunn with the Police's "watching you" thing. Mancini will never die in my way of thinking of TV themes.
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  #13  
Old 04-02-2008, 11:59 AM
WordMan WordMan is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeldar
I should have mentioned, WordMan, that the Crime Jazz listing you provided really struck a chord. I'm familiar with about half of those shows and their music and could probably hum or doodle more than a few of them.

I thought it was especially poignant when one episode of The Sopranos combined the theme from Peter Gunn with the Police's "watching you" thing. Mancini will never die in my way of thinking of TV themes.

Oh yeah - I have to agree; listening to that CD sounds so familiar because those songs were playing when my parents watched reruns when I was a kid.

Mancini writes hooks like Beethoven writes leitmotifs. I would match the 5th Symphony's "da-da-da-DUM" with Peter Gunn or the Pink Panther hook any day...
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