Hear 2.5‑Hours of Great Jazz Songs Featured in Woody Allen Films: Sidney Bechet in Midnight in Paris, Louis Armstrong in Stardust Memories & More

It takes no great research pains to find out that Woody Allen loves jazz. He scores most of his movies with the music, nev­er fail­ing to include it at least under their sig­na­ture sim­ple black-and-white open­ing titles. He has worked jazz as a theme into some of the films them­selves, most notably Sweet and Low­down, the sto­ry of a dis­solute 1930s jazz gui­tarist who heads for Hol­ly­wood. He plays the clar­inet him­self, tour­ing with his jazz band as seen in the doc­u­men­tary Wild Man Blues. He makes no secret of his admi­ra­tion for fel­low clar­inetist (and also sax­o­phon­ist) Sid­ney Bechet, after whom he named one of his daugh­ters.

Allen has pub­licly dis­cussed a dream project called Amer­i­can Blues, a movie about the very begin­ning of jazz in New Orleans seen through the careers of Bechet and Louis Arm­strong. He acknowl­edges that a sto­ry of that scale would require a far larg­er bud­get than the more mod­est films he makes just about every year, and so, in light of the unlike­li­hood of his com­mand­ing that bud­get, he has evi­dent­ly con­tent­ed him­self with infus­ing the work that does come out with as much jazz as pos­si­ble. You can hear almost two and a half hours of it in the Youtube playlist at the top of this post, which includes cuts from not just Bechet and Arm­strong but from Tom­my Dorsey, Bil­lie Hol­i­day, Djan­go Rein­hardt, Glenn Miller, Lester Young, Jel­ly Roll Mor­ton, and many oth­er respect­ed play­ers from pre­war and wartime Amer­i­ca. You can find a list of the songs fea­tured in the jazz playlist, com­plete with time­stamps, in the blurb beneath this YouTube clip.

Even apart from what film schol­ars would call the non-diegetic jazz in Allen’s pic­tures (i.e., the jazz we hear on the score, but the char­ac­ters them­selves pre­sum­ably don’t) he also includes some diegetic jazz, as in the end­ing of Star­dust Mem­o­ries, when Allen’s char­ac­ter puts on a Louis Arm­strong record. And isn’t now just the right time to revis­it the sequence from Mid­night in Paris just above, a mon­tage cel­e­brat­ing life in the City of Lights set to Sid­ney Bechet’s “Si tu vois ma mère”? After that, have a look at the clip below, in which the man him­self plays with the Woody Allen and Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band at New York’s Cafe Car­lyle — where you can catch them every Mon­day night through Decem­ber 14th.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Woody Allen Tells a Clas­sic Joke About Hem­ing­way, Fitzger­ald & Gertrude Stein in 1965: A Pre­cur­sor to Mid­night in Paris

Woody Allen Lists the Great­est Films of All Time: Includes Clas­sics by Bergman, Truf­faut & Felli­ni

Watch an Exu­ber­ant, Young Woody Allen Do Live Stand Up on British TV (1965)

Watch a 44-Minute Super­cut of Every Woody Allen Stam­mer, From Every Woody Allen Film

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

1959: The Year that Changed Jazz

Col­in Mar­shall writes else­where on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­maand the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future? Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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