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A Jazz Backlash Against “Whiplash”?

Trio talk: trumpeter and IU faculty member Pat Harbison, drummer and bandleader Mitch Shiner, and WFIU's David Brent Johnson discuss the movie "Whiplash."

drummer and teacher from film Whiplash.

Photo: publicity still

Driven: Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash".

The 2014 movie Whiplash, which depicts the intense and troubled relationship between a young jazz drummer (played by Miles Teller) and his instructor and bandleader (played by J.K. Simmons) won three Oscars last Sunday night, including Best Supporting Actor for Simmons.  The film was nominated in the Best Picture category as well. In the online jazz community, the film has provoked a different kind of intensity, with some arguing that the movie’s portrayal of a jazz education setting is inaccurate and harmful to jazz, while others contend that it is a psychological drama that highlights the passion and commitment that artists feel for the music.

Pat Harbison, a trumpeter and Indiana University jazz faculty member, and drummer and recent IU Jacobs School of Music graduate Mitch Shiner joined WFIU’s David Brent Johnson this past Thursday on “Just You and Me” to offer some varying opinions about Whiplash.

  • Richard Salvucci

    Funny. The jazz players I know almost uniformly hate it. But a couple of classical players have said it’s dead on.

  • kburd
  • SADouglas

    Thanks for the conversation. I agree that the movie is not about jazz in the least, and perhaps is best seen as a negative depiction of the values the US seems to prize or promote. This is NOT jazz–a collaboration/conversation and possibly the most democratic of all musics (though apparently Bach promoted a similar kind of improvisation)–and is perhaps Anti-Jazz. If it is more akin to a sports movie (and I agree that it is) then the aberration here is that the “lesson” of those movies is absent–teamwork! This is the America we do not want to continue to prize or foster. More here: The Reactive Consequence of Force: Whiplash as Cultural Critique

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