chapter  30
Birth and Death of the Cool
The Glorious Afflictions of Jazz on Screen
ByJeremy Barham
Pages 13

This chapter examines the context and significance of the screen appropriation of jazz with particular emphasis on big-screen, feature-film formats and the perceived typecasting effect that, across several historical time periods while at the same time serving to mis/re-define what is a notoriously elusive genre. A mode of rebellion and detachment that may well have had its historical origins in an inward, African-American defence against slavery, 'cool' by its nature is an ultra-relative concept. The complex way in which jazz has featured in mainstream Western cinema holds up a mirror, perhaps a distorting mirror, to Anglo-American cultural and sociopolitical development. It seems that jazz on-screen has become caught between a rock and a hard place, or perhaps that should be between Rock and a hard place. Its cultural weight is ideal for historical situations but severely limiting in other contexts.