Jazz as Visual Language: Film, Television and the Dissonant Image

Jazz as Visual Language

A new book by Nicolas Pillai, a Research Fellow in Birmingham School of Media, argues that jazz was more than an inventive sound – it was a new way of seeing the world.

“Jazz is in constant dialogue with its presence in popular culture and society,” Nicolas said. “Jazz is a music of freedom and resistance. It gives me hope, and that’s how I’d characterise the encounters between jazz and the moving image described in my book – as defiant, progressive and hopeful.”

With recent Oscar hits such as ‘Whiplash’ and ‘La La Land’ in the headlines, Nicolas' book provides a timely analysis and history of jazz on screen. Using case studies in which the artistry of great musicians is expressed through experimental and innovative visual style, this is the first single-author monograph to encompass jazz in both film and television.

“I wrote this book because I wanted to find out why Len Lye’s abstract animations fascinated me, why Gjon Mili’s ‘Jammin’ the Blues’ moved me and why the BBC’s ‘Jazz 625’ brought me such joy,” Nicolas said.

The book was launched in March at the Vortex Jazz Club in North East London, one of Europe’s most celebrated venues for improvised music. Nicolas has previously presented a season of screenings at the venue.

‘Jazz as Visual Language’ is published by I.B. Taurus and is available to purchase here.