It has been an unusually fertile year for jazz connections in the movies as the Oscar nominations indicate. So, for instance in the top best picture category zoning in on Judas and the Black Messiah the link is that avant trombonist Craig Harris and the trumpeter Mark Isham wrote the music for the Shaka King-directed political thriller.
In the best actress category Viola Davis is nominated for her gutsy interpretation of the title role of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. In the same category Andra Day is nominated for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in The United States vs Billie Holiday after success at the Golden Globes. The film comes hard on the heels of a fine documentary Billie, not nominated for an Oscar unfortunately.
In the best actor category Chadwick Boseman is nominated for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The knife scenes involving the late actor's character Levee are positively Shakespearean.
The much talked about Soul is nominated for best animated feature. In the music, which was composed by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, Tia Fuller provides the real saxophone sound behind the hard to impress bandleader Dorothea Williams and probably steals the show in the fictional Half Note when hero Joe (voiced very warmly by Jamie Foxx) finally fulfils his dreams and plays a significant gig after years as a middle school teacher as he attempts to come back from the dead.
Terence Blanchard is up for best score for Da 5 Bloods (the score largely bypasses jazz) and in the same category the music for Soul is also nominated. Soul also is in the running for best sound among other nods from the Academy. It is disappointing, however, that Branford Marsalis' excellent score for Ma Rainey didn't get nominated. In best original song Celeste is up for 'Hear my Voice' from The Trial of the Chicago 7 basically a mainstream song but with a strong jazz relatable flavour. The Brit lost out in the same category as the Golden Globes. And in best documentary short A Concerto is a Conversation by Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers (a Monk prize-winning pianist who composed the music for Green Book and the acclaimed TV series Mrs America) is also nominated. Kris Bowers, top.