By Gilberto Campa
Lester Bowie the legendary Jazz Trumpet player & composer once said “Jazz is neither specific repertoire, nor academic exercise… but a way of life.” Jazz is the main theme (pun intended) of the newest show to hit Netflix in The Eddy. The series was created by Jack Thorne (famous writer and Playwright) along with acclaimed superstar director Damien Chazelle, who executive produced the series and also directed the first two episodes. It is well documented that Chazelle is a lover of Jazz and all that it encompasses, as much of his work thus far has had movies set in the wonderfully complex world of it and its effect on people’s lives. This series is a continuation of that. The Eddy is set in modern day, contemporary Paris which is a type of view of the city that is rarely shown in movies or television which helps to set the tone for what the series is going to feel like.
Right away you are introduced to the band and the club as Chazelle’s exceptional directing presents the characters in a series of long takes with a 16mm camera, following everyone around creating an organic and messy feeling almost like a documentary. All of the music that is played on the show was recorded live and it helps to really differentiate it from other similar shows, while also making it stand on its own. The music is truly the catalyst that keeps the show alive through many of the emotional beats that occur throughout the series.
The club is owned and ran by Elliot Udo (played by Andre Holland) who had a personal tragedy in his life after a successful music career and decides to move to Paris. Over the last few years Elliot along with his partner Farid (Tahar Rahim) has put together the band that the series follows in and out of the club. After getting attacked by some shady characters one evening, Elliot soon starts to realize that perhaps Farid has made choices that put their lives and the clubs life at stake, right when the band is potentially looking to get signed. Unlike other shows or movies that have music involved, the creators of the show chose to have authentic musicians (or in the case of Joana who is an excellent singer) instead of actors learning to play the instruments. Some may see this as a criticism but I felt that this was a smart move because it helped to make everything feel real.
This series isn’t about incredible acting (which there is) but more about the emotional struggles that the band members all deal with throughout the show. Despite all of their issues in their personal lives, they all come back to The Eddy as it gives them purpose, and almost a sense of Oasis which is what music is for a lot of people. In terms of standout performances, major recognition has to be shown to Julie (Amandla Stenberg) as Elliot’s daughter. She has an interesting progression as the relationship she has with her father isn’t the best, which Amandla projects really well in certain episodes and scenes. The immensely talented Joanna Kulig (Maja) brings a fiery passion along with her exceptional singing as the lead singer of the band in another great performance for her as the woman that stands by Elliot’s side (when she isn’t mad at him).
The melting pot of personalities and backgrounds that make up the series helps with the authenticity of the show. The languages spoken (French, Farsi, Polish, Arabic) come from multiple directions which was a nice change of pace and helps to provide more context while giving you a look at a different kind of life that many aren’t exposed to. Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber (who is one of the band members on the show) wrote and composed all original music for the show. Obviously doing a show like this the music has to work for the show to work, and it certainly does. The arrangement of certain songs in relation to what is occurring worked really well to complement and emphasize what you should be feeling. I was brought to tears during a few moments of the show, and the music was a big reason why. While working on the series Chazelle said the following that really sums up what makes The Eddy so special and unique: “Whether you like jazz or not, it’s about people making art and expressing themselves for reasons other than money or fame”. And that’s really what it’s all about.
The Verdict: 4/5 Stars