When I say ‘film noir jazz’ what do you think? A slow, moody kind of jazz, usually with a trumpet solo? I thought you’d say that.
The truth is, jazz had nothing to do with classic 1940s noir. Jazz was sometimes featured as ambience music, for example from a jukebox or in a club. It was never the soundtrack of a film.
The scores for these films were usually modernistic orchestral music, like the well-known score of Double Indemnity.
Where does the idea comes, then, that jazz is associated with film noir?
It looks like jazz started to appear in film noir (or more precisely, nourish films) in the 1950s, some say in the movie (which may or may not be considered noir) A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), from Tennessee William’s play.
Some other trace the beginning of this tradition with a 1958 French film, Elevator to the Gallows (Frantic) which feature a main theme by Miles Davis.
Wherever it came from, jazz association with neo noir is not surprising. The unpredictability, dissonance, experimentation of jazz is particularly apt at commenting these stories of disconnection and confusion.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) by Elia Kazan
Former schoolteacher Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) leaves small-town Mississippi and moves in with her sister, Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter), and her husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando), in New Orleans. Blanche’s flirtatious Southern-belle presence causes problems for Stella and Stanley, who already have a volatile relationship, leading to even greater conflict in the Kowalski household. (Google synopsis)
Elevator to the Gallows (1958) by Louis Malle
Florence (Jeanne Moreau) is married to the wealthy arms dealer Simon Carala (Jean Wall), but is carrying on a torrid affair with one of her husband’s employees, Julien (Maurice Ronet). Julien daringly climbs into Simon’s office on a rope, kills him and leaves unnoticed. However, Julien accidentally leaves the rope at the crime scene and realizes he must retrieve it. On his way out, he becomes stuck in the building’s elevator. But he soon finds that his bad luck is just beginning.(Google synopsis)