My Rediscovery Of Jazz Thanks To Whiplash

Recently, I watched Whiplash, a movie about a young drummer called Andrew who is beginning his first year at Shaffer Conservatory of Music, the best of its kind in the United States. Due to his promising skills, Andrew is invited to study under Fletcher, Shaffer’s most respected and feared professor. This is basically the plot, but if you want to see more, here is the trailer.

The film was one of the best I’ve seen in a while, but what resonated with me was not the acting nor the directing, but the message I pulled out from it. I really like to see movies which depict the journey from underdog to wonderdog, as chessy as that may sound. Andrew didn’t just want to be great, he wanted to be “one of the Greats”, he wanted to be in the same league as Charlie Parker. He really wanted to be the best and Fletcher, in a quite unorthodox way, pushed him beyond boundaries he didn’t even know existed.

Fletcher really liked to mentally exhaust his students to see how far they could reach. He didn’t tolerate any rhythmic flaws, he wanted them to be human metronomes.

The movie is called Whiplash because one of the songs they rehearse is Hank Levy’s composition ‘Whiplash‘. The soundtrack is great and I’ve been listening to it on repeat for the past few days. It made me rediscover my lost interest for Jazz, one of the most exciting and intricate music genre ever invented. I have now a much greater appreciation for jazz musicians because they can really express themselves while also having into account those unconventional time signatures and tricky chords. Yesterday, I even rushed to the local music store and bought a recording of some of the most memorable jazz made in the 40s and 50s. Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Fats Navarro are some of the names I’m really getting into.

Charlie Parker Jr., referred several times in the movie, was a jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop. He was also know as “Bird”. According to Fletcher, Jo Jones once hurled a cymbal at young Parker’s head, nearly decapitating him. This event inspired him to work hard and become one of the most important Jazz players of the century.

Listening to Jazz is really soothing and is somehow helping me get back into the headspace I lacked for quite a long time now. I’m nearly finishing my finals and I’m now more focused than ever and willing to give the best I can. I might even give Jazz a try, I just need to dust off my guitar and have a cymbal thrown at me.

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