One of the big jazz films for me, when I was a teenager and getting into the stuff, was Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues. I know, I know… the integration of the music into the film is shaky at points, as some have pointed out. I don’t remember it being quite shaky as that guy claimed, but there were things I kind of raised an eyebrow at back in the day — though also a lot of things I thought it got kind of right. After all, the film had style, and it imagined a world where jazz was cool, hip, and hot. This couldn’t exactly have been true to life at any point since I was born, but it was a fantasy that helped me feel hip about my own hobby. After all, this is something jazz wasn’t in the place I was growing up, and so I enjoyed it.
Amusingly in the context of the film (which, like so many early Spike Lee films, has plenty of emphatic sex scenes), there is one song that sticks out in my memory from the soundtrack. It’s this ranty rap that Denzel Washington’s character performs with his band, complaining about the way that love songs haver taken over the airwaves in America. (Well, and as he points out, most of them are not love songs at all — or, if they are, then love is cheap, meaningless, and another word for casual sex.) The rap song is quite funny, and the rest of the soundtrack was, as I remembered it, pretty good — basically a Branford Marsalis album with Terence Blanchard sitting in, with a bunch of tracks that are somewhat unusually short, but pretty characteristic of late-80s/early-90s revivalist jazz, which ain’t my thing now but was when it was contemporary, the Branford Marsalis version of it anyway — so the other day, when I was in the record store and saw the soundtrack, I grabbed it.
Now, if you don’t live in Asia, go to your record store and see if they have the soundtrack for Mo’ Better Blues in stock. I haven’t gone around checking, but I’d be surprised if it was. But since moving to Korea, I have noticed that for some reason, this soundtrack is really popular here. (I suspect the same is similar in other places: I’ve seen jazz musicians in other parts of Asia playing the theme song in various places, including online. But I can only say for sure about Korea, and it is very much more well-known here than in the West. To the point that young jazz musicians who might not have even seen the movie jam on it.)
Well, I found something funny when I ripped the CD for my iPod… it’s missing a track. And the track that’s missing is the very one that I had in mind when I picked up the CD!
Thank goodness for the Internet. If you were ripped off this way, there are places you can download the file. I have no idea how long that will stay up, or how long I’ll keep the file around, but anyway, if you’re looking and the file is gone, you can always check out the version someone uploaded to Youtube. IT’d be cooler if the scene from the film were included, but hey, at least you can hear it:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/XqICL4Z9Bc0" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]
I really gotta wonder why the song was left off the OST.