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PRINT February 1990

UNDERTONE

the Jazz Hero

Clint Eastwood, that steely-jawed, laconic American icon, revealed another side of himself to the public recently through his involvement in two jazz bio-pics: Bird, 1988, a fictionalized account of the life of saxophonist Charlie Parker, which he directed; and Straight, No Chaser, 1988, a documentary on pianist Thelonious Monk, which he produced. It seems Eastwood is a lifelong jazz lover, and that he idolizes the great jazz heroes of his youth. He’s even gone on record making an oft-heard observation: that the Western and jazz are the only two wholly original art forms to have come from America. Given Eastwood’s avowed reverence for the likes of Parker and Monk, one might have expected his films to offer a kind of Western gloss on the jazz hero: comes to town, rides tall in the saddle, shoots straight, takes no prisoners. Yet despite the films’ insistence on the mastery of these artists,

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