Adam Nely is a New York-based composer, vlogger and jazz bassist, and he has a problem with the movie Whiplash. Well, to be more specific, he has a lot of trouble with Whiplash. Damian Chazelle’s 2014 love letter to abusive student-teacher relationships invited audiences into the insular world of New York jazz culture and was likely the first for many moviegoers.real experience with jazz. But, as someone who went to a similar competitive music school as the film, Neely is acutely aware that there are quite a few things the film gets wrong.
For the first 10 minutes of his incredibly in-depth 30-minute review, Neely is, admittedly, fussy. It highlights all the strange technical inaccuracies of the film, like the fact that some of the so-called jazz musicians look like buff jocks, or that JK Simmon’s character tells the whole horn section to “lead that ninth”, even though that doesn’t make sense in the context. But after stripping all the pedantry out of his system and even admitting that there are a few things the movie gets “almost right on,” Neely moves on to one of the film’s truly egregious inaccuracies: Buddy Rich’s idolization.
Miles Teller’s character in the film is an aspiring young jazz drummer fresh out of high school looking to break into New York’s modern jazz scene, which makes it all the stranger that his favorite drummer and musical idol or bandleader Buddy Rich. While Rich was admittedly a stellar technical drummer for his day, he was perhaps best known for his flashy personality and appearances on late-night talk shows. He had little or no influence on modern jazz, according to Neely, and you’d be hard pressed to find a young musician in New York who would reference Rich in his top five or even ten favorite drummers.
Neely admits Chazelle had reason to include Buddy Rich in the story. As a bandleader, Rich was a notoriously abusive asshole, similar to JK Simmons character in the movie. He is also one of the few jazz drummers that a wide audience would know. SEO rolling stones‘ list of ‘100 greatest drummers of all timenotes Neely that “white jazz big band drummers like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich rank significantly higher than small black jazz band drummers Tony Williams and Elvin Jones, despite the fact that Tony Williams and Elvin Jones are unquestionably better drummers with more influence”. on jazz.
Buddy Rich’s obsession is really just a symptom of a larger problem in Whiplashwho is that it’s not really a jazz movie. The film simply uses jazz as a vehicle to tell a story about ambition and the will to do what it takes to be great. Neely’s problem is thatusing gender as a simple narrative tool, Whiplash sucks all the joy out of jazz and makes it look like something emotionally draining that makes your hands bleed.
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