I expected so much more from this critically acclaimed film. Given the accolades it has received, I expected more. Given the stellar cast of talent, I expected more.
This is not going to be a complete review of the film. I will let you all judge for yourselves as to what you think of it. The film has a theme throughout that may not be so immediately evident and is worth addressing. It’s the idea of jazz being potentially saved by traditionalists. La La Land suggests repeatedly that jazz music is a dying form of artistic expression. I have to respect Writer/Director Damien Chazelle’s attempt to address this. My problem is that it gives off the appearance of jazz actually existing on its’ last breaths. I respectfully disagree. Music in general has sadly become devalued because of advances in technology. Advances which were inevitable. This applies to all music regardless of the genre. Jazz still manages to enjoy a home with audiences worldwide thanks to large and small festivals and sponsors who are willing to put their names on these events.
Jazz will continue to exist as long as there are others willing to pick up and play an instrument. Jazz will exist as long as there are people to hear it at clubs. If you collect vinyl, go into any record store and you will find that some of the greatest jazz records ever recorded cannot be found. It is because they are high in demand from fans and collectors. Try finding certain jazz records on eBay and you will be paying a high price, likely to be outbid by other collectors.
If there is a silver lining to be found in the film, it’s turning people on to jazz who might never listened to it at all. A reader mentioned this to me on social media and it made me think of this in a positive light. Even so, I could not in good conscience recommend La La Land to anyone. If by chance you have seen the film and are interested in jazz, please explore it all. It’s history is rich with diversity and dedication. The “jazz fusion” band that John Legend leads in the film is so far from fusion. Check out acts like Return To Forever, UZEB, and some of the music of Miles Davis. For “traditional” jazz, go listen to some Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Bill Evans (who was once in the employ of Miles Davis), Lionel Hampton and one of my absolute favourite composers ever, Charles Mingus. There are some great golden voices in jazz that deserve to be heard as well. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Diana Krall, Carmen McRae.
A variety of different jazz can be heard on many terrestrial and satellite radio stations. If you have access to Google Play, there are a ton of amazing jazz music channels with an endless variety of explorations into the eras.
Open your mind and hear it all.