Culture Magazine

Blue Giant

By Bbenzon @bbenzon

With English subtitles:

Kevin Nguyen, Jazz anime Blue Giant hits all the high notes, The Verge, Oct. 7, 2023.

The setup of Blue Giant is familiar anime territory: a young boy from a small town moves to Tokyo to pursue his dream. This boy, Dai, is a saxophone obsessive. He practices all day under a bridge, honking and warbling until he wears out his reed. Naturally, Dai wants to be the greatest jazz musician in the world.

For all his audacious ambition, Blue Giant is largely restrained. The movie focuses on the trio that forms the band — and even shifts its attention away from Dai at around the halfway mark. There’s also Sawabe, a savvy and smug pianist who knows how the club performance circuit operates. And then there’s Dai’s roommate, Tamada, a high school friend who improbably becomes the band’s rhythm section after trying the drums just once. They decide to form JASS, a name that, strangely, no one bats an eye at.

As JASS, they practice, they perform, they get better. Much of the film’s success hinges on the music being excellent — which it absolutely is. This isn’t the jukebox roulette of the Cowboy Bebop. Blue Giant has a legit soundtrack composed by Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara, who does a compelling homage to the American sax legends of the ’60s. It’s less the jazz of cool sophistication but one of bravado and squeaky high notes. Think of the muscular brass of Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus or John Coltrane’s Giant Steps (probably the record the film’s title most strongly evokes).

Not to mention the fact that Sonny Rollins famously practiced on the Williamsburg Bridge in 1959 and then came out with an album entitled The Bridge.

The stage dynamics of the trio are a thrill when they come together, as the three of them get into harmony. As the film progresses, these sequences get more ecstatic, more abstract. Swirls of color, brushes with the cosmic, an attempt to go sublime. I’m at a loss for words to describe how much fun these sequences are. I guess I’ll just go with… “hot” and “intense”?

There's more at the link. 

As for Hiromi, I've got some posts about her, and an article at 3 Quarks Daily: Sukiyaki and beyond: Hiromi Uehara, music, war and peace, Chick Corea, and others.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog