Moody, Melancholic Detective Jazz
September 1, 2016 5:18 PM   Subscribe

I don't know anything about jazz. But what I do know is that I love jazz that feels like it's straight out of a 1940s detective film. Melancholic, moody, slow. Mostly made up of saxophone, piano, and upright bass. Suggestions?

Okay, time to come clean: I'm writing a detective novel, and I like to listen to music to put me in the mood. Right now I'm listening to a playlist I found on Spotify called "Reddit - Sad blue jazz".

A lot of that music fits exactly what I'm looking for, however I've been through the playlist a few dozen times. I tend to skip the songs that feel too manic or have an anxious feeling to them. I like the slower tracks, something you could listen to on a sad rainy night holding a glass of whiskey and thinking about your regrets.

I also don't mind something a bit more playful that fits the same mood, like Grant Green's Idle Moments.

I'm open to (female) vocalists certainly, like this Cry Me a River cover by Lisa Ekdahl. Something you can imagine in a quiet lounge.

But I'm more interested in purely instrumental music, for the most part. Also, scores to actual detective movies don't seem to do the trick for me.

I'd be curious to know if this subgenre has an official name so I can more easily search for it in the future. When I asked a jazz aficionado a few years back if he could recommend anything in this category, he just turned up his nose, rolled his eyes, and said no. So I'm thinking I won't get too much help from anyone I personally know who is into jazz in a big way.
posted by gregoryg to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
/r/jazznoir maybe?
posted by andrewcooke at 5:19 PM on September 1, 2016

Hard bop is from the 50s, but I think it fits what you're talking about. Miles Davis, "Kind of Blue", etc. Specifically, I'd direct you to a soundtrack, "Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud". Miles recorded it with some French guys as the soundtrack to a Louis Malle crime film. If you've seen the Lincoln commercials with Matthew McConaughey last fall, a couple of songs were in those. It has a neat, dark, rainy day mood.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:33 PM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Blade Runner soundtrack has a few you might like:

"Love Theme"
"One More Kiss, Dear"
"Memories of Green" (background beeps and boops may detract for you; I love them)
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:39 PM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you like that cover of Cry Me a River then the Julie London Version hits all your points, and if you like that then the album it comes from should do the same; sparse, smokey, excellent.
posted by merocet at 6:19 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

John Coltrane was best known for his more provocative work, and I think he teased his critics by recording a mellow album of noir cocktail Ballads in the middle of his career.
posted by ovvl at 6:19 PM on September 1, 2016

In a more post-modern mood, Bohren & der Club of Gore perform a kinda deconstructed interpretation of slow mellow jazz on Sunset Mission.
posted by ovvl at 6:23 PM on September 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Miles Davis did an actual film noir soundtrack.
posted by thelonius at 6:23 PM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I bet you'd like the 1993 Blue Note Collections "Ballads" by saxaphonist Stanley Turrentine.
posted by Jahaza at 6:28 PM on September 1, 2016

Miles Davis, In a Silent Way; Chet Baker; Julie London.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 6:36 PM on September 1, 2016

Thelonious Monk, 'round Midnight
posted by fuse theorem at 6:47 PM on September 1, 2016

The kind of jazz you're describing and looking for didn't exist in the 1940s, and you can't find it in detective films from that era. It's a construct of your imagination. Not saying you shouldn't look for this kind of music (and not trying to discourage your search), but that this music isn't what you think it is and it's not from when you think it is. It's from the late 50s and the 1960s. For instance, that Grant Green album you cite is from 1963. Jazz in detective TV shows is from that same time period, I think. "Jazz" in the 1940s was still Big Band music. Later in the decade it was bebop, which is like the antithesis of what you're looking for.
posted by jdroth at 6:50 PM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

You might like Mose Allison.
posted by mareli at 6:51 PM on September 1, 2016

Duke Ellington's Star-Crossed Lovers feels like a guy walking down an alley in the rain with a trench coat and a fedora.
posted by mskyle at 6:53 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Charlie Haden Quartet West - Haunted Heart
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:04 PM on September 1, 2016

Miles Davis did an actual film noir soundtrack.

on preview, yeah ditto this.
posted by juv3nal at 7:13 PM on September 1, 2016

Also, if you're looking for the mood of film noir more than that specific sax/piano/bass instrumentation, you could try Bob Belden's Black Dahlia suite, which is WONDERFUL.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:16 PM on September 1, 2016

Or, if the sax/piano/bass trio is what you're looking for, Lee Konitz did a couple albums with Brad Meldhau and Charlie Haden in the late 90s that might scratch that itch: Alone Together and Another Shade of Blue. I'm not sure this is totally right on with what you're looking for, but maybe?
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:26 PM on September 1, 2016

[But more generally speaking, there's no reason for jazz fans to denigrate the sort of music you're looking for. I'm sorry that the jazz aficionado you asked earlier acted like a jerk.]
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:30 PM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Gerry Mulligan -Night Lights
posted by mattholomew at 7:56 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Among saxophonists, I think Dexter Gordon has a higher percentage of this type of track. Very melodic player. I see there's a couple from him on that spotify list. Dexter Calling is one I listen to often while reading because it doesn't demand 100% attention like some hard bop stuff.
posted by Lorin at 8:14 PM on September 1, 2016

As soon as I saw the question, I was going to mention that Miles Davis soundtrack too. See the film; it's great.
posted by matildaben at 8:38 PM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

See if you can find some of Henry Mancini's soundtrack music from Peter Gunn. A little later, but very much in the same vein, if I remember.
posted by lhauser at 9:12 PM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are some great jazz noir movie soundtracks. I'll agree with thelonious on Miles' "Elevator to the Gallows" soundtrack. Also, John Lewis and the MJQ did an amazing soundtrack for "Odds Against Tomorrow."
posted by EnoughRope at 9:14 PM on September 1, 2016

The Crime Jazz compilation is a nice sampler of ’50s/’60s jazz-inspired movie & TV music.

If you like Idle Moments, you might also enjoy Bobby Hutcherson’s album The Kicker (especially the track Step Lightly) which features, I think, the same musicians. And there’s Ike Quebec’s Blue and Sentimental (title track) which also features Grant Green to great effect.

Some other possibilities: Eddie Lockjaw Davis & Shirley Scott’s Cookbook Sessions (example track - In The Kitchen) and Oliver Nelson's Nocturne album (e.g. In a Sentimental Mood).
posted by misteraitch at 12:56 AM on September 2, 2016

Based on some of the suggestions others have given, maybe this Homeland-inspired spotify playlist? Saul and Carrie (CIA spooks) both listen to jazz a lot.
posted by AnnaRat at 3:13 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

seconding club de gore (don't be misled by their name). also, more generally, what you're looking for are ballads, typically with a sax lead. unfortunately (for you) it's not common to have an album full of ballads - more likely it's just one track.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:43 AM on September 2, 2016

Tangential to your question but I just wanted to add that if you throw on behind almost anything it makes it even moreso
posted by rebent at 5:50 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think some Branford Marsalis is good for this. Try the album Renaissance, and particularly the tracks "Lament" and "The Peacocks." Other albums of his to try include Scenes in the City, and Eternal. (All on Spotify.)

You could also try the Kenny Wheeler album What Now? (Also on Spotify.) You can't go wrong with Chris Potter on saxophone.

The soundrack to the movie Glengarry Glen Ross also has this kind of feel to me, but it has a bit of an 80s/90s feel to it, too. (This isn't on Spotify.)

Finally, do you know about the Broadway Musical City of Angels? (On Spotify.) It's about a noir detective, and the soundtrack might be something to inspire you, although it sounds more like a soundtrack to a musical than something you'd hear in a noir detective movie.

Someone above mentioned the show Homeland, and that reminds that Tomasz Stanko could be described as "dark jazz." I believe the theme song from Homeland is on his album Dark Eyes. (This isn't on Spotify because it's on the ECM label, which doesn't do streaming.)
posted by crLLC at 7:18 AM on September 2, 2016

It has vocals but Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown. Specifically April in Paris and September Song
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:38 AM on September 2, 2016

I'm not a jazzhead by any means, and found myself in very much the same position as you a few years back, when I just spontaneously fell in love with Kind of Blue and wanted to branch out from there. The playlist you posted has a lot of the other musicians on it that I started listening to after getting advice from more knowledgeable friends - especially Dexter Gordon and Bill Evans.

Some general recommendations of other artists to try out would be Art Blakey and Lee Morgan.

In the vein of the Miles Davis score for Elevator to the Gallows mentioned above, I'd also recommend Duke Ellington's score for Anatomy of a Murder, and the Duke Ellington/Max Roach/Charles Mingus album Money Jungle, which is a personal favorite.
posted by lousywiththespirit at 9:37 AM on September 2, 2016

This is a bit oblique but have you ever watched Peter Gunn? It was showing late night on one of those retro tv stations. The main character has a girl friend who sings in a jazz club and I've seen her solos featured a few times which is pretty cool for a half-hour show.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:19 PM on September 2, 2016

(I'm compiling all the youtube suggestions into a playlist)
posted by rebent at 4:01 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know I'm really late, but hope you see this. I love it too! Most of the Spotify playlists for film noir like music also include old radio shows from noir movies. I guess they are generated by tag or something. BUT, here is a 14 hour playlist of film noir music I've been listening to that is music only and appears to have been hand curated.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 1:24 PM on September 4, 2016

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