Nicolas Pillai


Dr Nicolas Pillai is a research fellow specialising in jazz and visual culture. His first monograph, Jazz as Visual Language: Film, Television and the Dissonant Image (I. B. Tauris, 2016), rethinks the technological and institutional processes that mediate jazz onscreen. He has been a frequent guest speaker at the National Jazz Archive, has curated a season of screenings at the Vortex Jazz Club and was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Jazz & Cinema conference.

He has contributed chapters to Gender and Identity in Jazz (Jazzinstitut Darmstadt, 2016) and The Routledge Companion to New Jazz Studies (Routledge, 2017), as well as articles in journals such as The Soundtrack and Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism. He has also written an essay for the booklet included in the BFI dual format Blu-ray/DVD release of Paris Blues (film 1961; release 2016). Pillai is the co-editor of New Jazz Conceptions: History, Theory, Practice (Routledge, 2017; with Dr Roger Fagge) and the special issue ‘Brilliant Corners: Approaches to Jazz & Comics’ (The Comics Grid: A Journal of Comics Scholarship 2016; with Dr Ernesto Priego).

Current Activity

I am currently collaborating with BCU colleague Professor Tim Wall and the British Library on a project investigating jazz radio broadcasting on the BBC. With Wall, I am also writing a book chapter on music documentaries and biopics.

Using the Coventry Cathedral archive, I am also writing a research article on Duke Ellington’s British tour of 1966 and am preparing my next book project, on jazz and cultural geography.

  • PhD Film Studies (University of Warwick)
  • MA in Film for Research (University of Warwick)
  • BA (Hons) Film and Literature (University of Warwick)

PhD thesis outline:



Fagge, Roger & Pillai, Nicolas, eds. (2017), New Jazz Conceptions: History, Theory, Practice. New York: Routledge.

Pillai, Nicolas, Jazz as Visual Language: Film, Television and the Dissonant Image. London: I. B. Tauris.

Chapters in books

Wall, Tim and Pillai, Nicolas, 'Screening popular music's past: music documentary and biopics' in Lauren Istvandity, Sarah Baker and Catherine Strong, eds. (2018), The Routledge Companion to Popular Music History and Heritage [forthcoming].

Pillai, Nicolas, 'Jazz and comics', in Gebhardt, Nicholas, Nicole Rustin-Paschall and Tony Whyton, eds. (2017) The Routledge Companion to Jazz Studies [forthcoming].

Pillai, Nicolas, 'Brubeck betwixt and between: television, pop and the middlebrow' in Roger Fagge and Nicolas Pillai, eds. (2017) New Jazz Conceptions: History, Theory, Practice. Routledge, pp. 90-110.

Pillai, Nicolas, 'Watching men play: the erotics of the Hollywood jazz film' in Wolfram Knauer, ed. (2016), Gender and Identity in Jazz. Jazzinstitut Darmstädt, pp. 292-301.

Pillai, Nicolas, 'Asta: the screwball dog and the Hollywood crime film' in Sebastian Manley and Kirsten Irving, eds. (2015), Lives Beyond Us: Poems and Essays on the Film Reality of Animals. Sidekick Books, pp. 187-196.

Pillai, Nicolas, 'This World is Full of Danger: the hard-boiled Nick Cave' in Sam Kinchin-Smith, ed. (2012), Read Write [Hand]: a Multi-Disciplinary Nick Cave Reader. Silkworms Ink, pp. 75-79.

Articles in refereed journals

Pillai, Nicolas & Priego, Ernesto, (2016). ‘Editorial: Brilliant Corners: Approaches to Jazz and Comics’. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship 6. DOI:

Pillai, Nicolas, 'Among My Souvenirs: couples, conventions and the America to come in The Best Years Of Our Lives'. Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism 6 (2015), pp. 53-62.

Pillai, Nicolas, 'Filming improvisation: jazz criticism's neglect of film style'. The Soundtrack 6: 1&2 (2014), pp. 5-20.

Pillai, Nicolas, 'What am I looking at, Mulder?: licensed comics and the freedoms of transmedia storytelling'. Science Fiction Film and Television 6: 1 (2013), pp. 101-117.


Bibliography: 'Dashiell Hammett' in Krin Gabbard, ed. (2016), Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies, Oxford University Press.

Entries: 'Tom Ripley improvises' and 'X marks the spot' in Michael Pigott, ed. (2013), World Film Locations: Venice. Intellect, pp. 76-77, 94-95.

Media Work

Media appearances: 

Interview: New book Jazz as Visual Language,

DVD booklet: 'That Autumn in Paris' (2016), Paris Blues Blu-ray and DVD. British Film Institute.

London Jazz Festival talk (Nov 2015):

Darmstadt Jazzforum interview (Oct 2015):

CD review: Sidney Bechet - French Movies,

Gig review: Stacey Kent at the Royal Spa Centre,

Film review: Whiplash is a horror film - so jazz critics should stop worrying,

Podcast: Jazz 625 at the BBC (in conversation with Professor Tim Wall and Dr Richard Wallace), 22 May 2014.

CD review: GoGo Penguin: v2.0,

CD review: John Coltrane: Out of This World,

CD+DVD review: Oscar Peterson and Ben Webster: During This Time,

CD review: Joe Stilgoe: Songs on Film Live,

CD review: Chet Baker: Italian Movies,

CD review: Jazz on Film: French New Wave,

CD review: Jazz on Film: Beat, Square & Cool,

Article: ’The authentic jazz film' in The Jazz Rag 122 (July 2012), pp. 10-11

Links and Social Media