Night Lights Classic Jazz

Grand Theft Auto With a Classic Jazz Beat

GTA 4The new Grand Theft Auto IV game has been rocking the country (not to mention the television airwaves–I’ve seen the ad countless times in the past couple of weeks), racking up millions of sales and even more millions of dollars. The commercial features a standard, pulsing rock-hiphop soundtrack sample, but Downbeat notes that the new edition has a jazz component as well, in the form of legendary drummer Roy Haynes:

Perhaps jazz was part of the reason behind the success of the game? The new game has a special feature to enhance play: 16 in-game radio stations featuring a wide variety of musical choices–rock, electronic and classic jazz. And who better to talk up these classic tunes by the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker–than the living link between all of the greats–83-year-old jazz legend Roy Haynes?

Haynes makes a guest appearance on Grand Theft Auto IV as the DJ of JNR 108.5 – “Jazz Nation Radio,” a station that plays classic jazz ‘sides’ such as Chet Baker’s “Let’s Get Lost” and Haynes’ own “Snap Crackle.”

Well, I doubt the classic-jazz channel had much to do with it, but it’s still pretty cool. Further jazz connections with GTA–from a Wall Street Journal profile of Sam Houser, the game’s creator:

The DNA of Rockstar traces to Mr. Houser, a British-born pop-culture aficionado. He remains close to his parents and to his brother Dan. Their father, Walter, is a lawyer who was part-owner of a well-known London nightclub, Ronnie Scott’s, where young Sam met jazz legends. When trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie asked the boy what he wanted to be when he grew up, Mr. Houser says he replied, “a bank robber!”

I’ve never really gotten into 21st-century computer simulation games, but I have to admit that the ads for this one are working their commercial magic on me–and knowing that I could play it while listening to Roy Haynes DJ classic jazz tunes only increases its appeal. As one online jazz community poster remarked, “The jazz radio station is very cool, they even have a little between-song banter…it’s a little strange, though, to be gunning down people on the street to a bebop beat.”

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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