Film Noir Music
June 7, 2005 11:53 AM   Subscribe

MusicFilter: I'm looking for music that I like to think of as "film noir music": small combo jazz with no lyrics, usually one horn, keyboards, and a bass. In my head it sounds sad and mournful. I'm at a loss for examples too. Can any mefites step up and suggest music to read Chandler or Hammett by?
posted by cosmicbandito to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bohren & Der Club Of Gore.

They're the only band you need. You couldn't have described them any more perfectly if you'd have tried. Buy their entire back catalogue immediately.
posted by nylon at 12:08 PM on June 7, 2005

Not quite what you are talking about, but Duke Ellington wrote the score to Anatomy of a Murder, which is a noir. It's a good album. He's also in the movie with some of his band, and there's a scene where Jimmy Stewart pretends to sit in with them, replacing Duke on piano. It's a horror show of a scene...almost ruins an otherwise great movie.
posted by OmieWise at 12:09 PM on June 7, 2005

Why Murder Is My Beat: Classic Film Noir Themes And Scenes - Motion Picture Soundtrack Collection, of course.
John Zorn's Naked City would also fit the bill, if you're looking for something more contemporary and upbeat.
posted by FreezBoy at 12:12 PM on June 7, 2005

It's not really jazz, but it's definitely Chandler: the soundtrack to Robert Mitchum's "Farewell My Lovely" (the 1975 film).
posted by Rash at 12:13 PM on June 7, 2005

Some of Yoko Kanno's (sp?) songs from the animated show "Cowboy Bebop" fit that bill exactly.
posted by saladin at 12:42 PM on June 7, 2005

John Zorn's Naked City would also fit the bill, if you're looking for something more contemporary and upbeat.

Yeah, Grand Guignol is really upbeat.

I have some stuff that fits the bill but I can't remember it--will post when I get home. Some of P'elvis's album would work.
posted by kenko at 12:56 PM on June 7, 2005

More upbeat than what you're asking for but I'd highly recommend Sonny Criss' Sonny's Dream. It reminds me a lot of the score to Sweet Smell of Success. You can hear samples of all the tracks here. One of my fave Jazz albums ever.
posted by dobbs at 1:52 PM on June 7, 2005

Big Lazy. It's what another fan describes as "lurking music." They played at Meldrick's wedding years back in the sublime NBC show Homicide: Life on the Street, and their recordings are absolutely spectacular.

I am supremely impressed with their first few efforts as a 3-piece (Amnesia, and a self-titled one). The latest one brings more instruments to the table, but I dig it a little less for some reason.

posted by dontrockwobble at 2:00 PM on June 7, 2005

Have you heard Bob Belden's Black Dahlia suite? It's not small-combo jazz, but it fits the mood you describe perfectly. And why shouldn't it? Belden recorded it as a sort-of soundtrack to the James Ellroy novel of the same name. This is really what you want.

If the piano-sax-bass thing is what you want, though, you could do lots worse than Lee Konitz's Another Shade of Blue, which has the sound you describe in spades, if not quite so much the feel (in my opinion) as the Black Dahila suite.
posted by .kobayashi. at 2:18 PM on June 7, 2005

Ran Blake released an LP called "Film Noir" that I really enjoy- it's sort of avant/free jazz takes on classic film noir soundtracks (and also some original pieces).

Think it's out of print, but it's not too hard to find in a used LP shop. Anyway, the "big hitters" have been covered already so I though I'd throw in something a little more obscure but very rewarding.
posted by bobot at 2:23 PM on June 7, 2005

don't have time to link, but surf music works really well, especially by the Aquavelvets. the album Guitar Noir works really well.
posted by oog at 2:29 PM on June 7, 2005

The Lounge Lizards [John Lurie of Fishing with John] may fit.
posted by ijoshua at 2:47 PM on June 7, 2005

Second the recommendations of Anatomy of a Murder and Black Dahlia, and I'll add even more enthusiastic recommendations for Miles Davis's Ascenseur pour l'├ęchafaud (aka Elevator to the Gallows -- music for a fairly obscure movie) and Astigmatic by the great Krzysztof Komeda (who died ridiculously young and did the soundtracks for a number of Polanski's movies).
posted by languagehat at 3:13 PM on June 7, 2005

John Zorn's Naked City would also fit the bill, if you're looking for something more contemporary and upbeat.

The problem is that there's lots of individual Zorn tracks that fit the bill (my favorite Zorn CD has a bunch), but his albums tend to also feature many things that would be pretty diametrically opposed to to what cosmicbandito is looking for. Reading Chandler while Yamataka eYe screams his lungs out might be an interesting contrast, but it fails as the quintessential noir experience.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:13 PM on June 7, 2005

Yeah, if you were going to go with Zorn, you'd probably want to go with either the Bribe (as PinkStainlessTail recommends) or Spillane.
posted by .kobayashi. at 3:44 PM on June 7, 2005

"Harlem Nocturne" was used as the theme to the "Mike Hammer" tv series. The version I know is by the Viscounts (the US band), but it's been covered a gajillion times.

If you want a noir-ish feel to a basically rock sound, check out the band Morphine. There are samples galore at the iTunes Music Store.
posted by kimota at 4:13 PM on June 7, 2005

Did some poking around, and the Yoko Kanno song I'm thinking of in particular is "Farewell Blues".
posted by saladin at 4:21 PM on June 7, 2005

Polish trumpet virtuoso Thomasz Stanko's jazz masterpiece From the Green Hill (review) could easily have been the soundtrack to a very dark, Eastern-European noir film. Trumpet, drums, bass, violin, and a mournful accordion. The record has the pristine sound that the ECM label has become famous for. One of my favourite records. Stanko is a student and former collaborator of Polish jazz pioneer Krzysztof Komeda, who wrote the scores to several of Roman Polanski's films (including "Rosemary's Baby").
posted by gentle at 4:50 PM on June 7, 2005

I see we think alike, gentle.
posted by languagehat at 5:38 PM on June 7, 2005

Terrence Blanchard's Jazz in Film is one of the very best in the genre. As a jazz trumpet player and bassist myself, I've listened the grooves off of that sucker.
posted by thomascrown at 6:07 PM on June 7, 2005

Barry Adamson (warning: really annoying Flash site) has done some good stuff of that ilk.
Also, I'll second Bohren & Der Club of Gore.
posted by klausness at 6:11 PM on June 7, 2005

I recommend Pete Rugolo. A lot of his stuff has that souldtrack feel to it (and not surprisingly, he did a lot of soundtrack work). Plus, he's got some great album covers (scroll down).

Also try Stan Kenton.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:33 PM on June 7, 2005

languagehat, indeed. I am getting that Komeda album. Check out Stanko (whose first name I misspelled, of course: it's Tomasz) if you haven't already.

Oh, and Bohren is nice, even if the keyboard work is a little tacky, in an 80s-slasher-flick kind of way. Of course, some might count that as a plus.
posted by gentle at 6:36 PM on June 7, 2005

I emphatically recommend, as languagehat did, above, Miles Davis's score for Louis Malle's semi-noir, proto-New Wave film L'ascenseur a l'echafaud (please correct my French), titled in English as Elevator to the Gallows. Terrifically moody, brooding, quiet, smoky jazz. Totally noir.
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:31 PM on June 7, 2005

Dirty Three. Or, as I think was mentioned above, there are quite a few noir soundtracks that are worth hearing.
posted by box at 7:34 PM on June 7, 2005

For some reason, I'm too quickly thinking about the Albino Alligator soundtrack, especially the first cut....
posted by kuperman at 6:46 AM on June 8, 2005

Check out Stanko

Oh, I've got plenty of Stanko
...and Stanko's plenty for me...
posted by languagehat at 5:29 PM on June 8, 2005

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