Jerry Maguire and Jazz

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There are a few references to jazz in the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, but this scene is the most well known. In the scene provided here, Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) arrives at Dorothy’s (a single mother played by Renee Zellweger) house and is met by “Chad the Nanny” (Todd Louiso). Gabbard notes that Chad is aware that Jerry and Renee are about to consummate their relationship for the first time and essentially prevents Jerry from entering the house until he finishes telling Jerry to “use this,” a tape of Miles Davis and John Coltrane “live in 1963.” There is an obvious post-production voice-over edit in this clip when the Chad hands Jerry the cassette and says "...and I put some Mingus on there.”

Kin Gabbard’s insightful article, “Playing the Clown: Charles Mingus, Jimmy Knepper and Jerry Maguire” in Watching Jazz: Encounters with Jazz Performance on Screen (2016) provides additional on how this song came to be use. He writes that Cameron Crowe originally wanted to use Davis’ “So What,” but felt “it was too languid” on the day of the shoot. Instead, Crowe went with Mingus’s “Hatian Fight Song” that he thought “sounded like a herd of elephants mating.” For this reason they overdubbed the line, “and I put a little Mingus on there, too,” after the filming. Below is an excerpt of Gabbard’s description of the next scene when Jerry and Dorothy are making love:

…But the, Knepper’s amazing solo becomes even more amazing when he breaks into double time. At this moment, Jerry gives Dorothy an incredulous look and says, “What is this music?” Jerry and Dorothy both begin laughing, even more united now that they can share a complete inability to understand what Mingus and Knepper (with Curtis Porter, Wade Legge, and Dannie Richmond) have achieved.

Gabbard continues with a multiple page look into the implications of this scene with particular regard for how Hollywood often portrays white couples falling in love to “invisible black” musicians (white actors falling in love to black music). Gabbard also questions, “Did [Cameron Crowe] know how profoundly he was revising, perhaps even ridiculing the standard use of black music in Hollywood films?” This scene takes advantage of the stereotype that jazz is primarily followed by die-hard and hard-to-relate-to fans. The first clue is that Chad insists that Jerry “use(s),” his cassette tape when with Dorothy. Next is Chad’s passionate monologue on the power of jazz. Gabbard writes, “Luiso’s imitation of a proselytizing jazz enthusiast who firmly believes that sex can be enhanced by his music is so spot-on that it had to be retained” (Heile, Elsdon, Doctor, p. 199, 2016).

Scene Transcription:

I know this might be a little bit awkward, but uh, I want you to use this. ... This is Miles Davis and John Coltrane Stockholm 1963. Two masters of freedom playing at a time before their art was corrupted by a zillion cocktail lounge performers who destroyed the legacy of the only American art form...Jazz. And I put some Mingus on there, too. ... No barriers, no boundaries. 


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