A Jazzman’s Blues

Content Caution

A man looks up at a woman as he talks to her while she sits on a tree limb.


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Kennedy Unthank

Movie Review

Were you to stroll on down to Chicago’s Capitol Royale in the late 1940s, you just might hear the melodic, pleasing voice of “Bayou” Boyd. His singing sweeps across the room, and the sounds of his albums circulate around the country.

But within his voice, you just might hear a hint of sadness, too—the sound of one who has found a woman to love but is unable to have her. The woman in question? Leanne Jean Harper. She loved Bayou back, but she was forced to move north from Georgia at the insistence of her mother following Bayou’s marriage proposal.

Leanne came back to town eventually—married to a white man and passing as a white woman, though she herself is Black. The segregated town would likely destroy her if they discovered she had “tricked” them. But despite her marriage, she cannot deny that she still loves Bayou, and Bayou still loves her. Yes, there’s sadness in Bayou’s singing, but if you listen closer, you may hear another emotion: determination. Bayou is going to be with Leanne—no matter the risk.

Positive Elements

A Jazzman’s Blues spotlights the ridiculous nature of racism. Many characters within the story reveal how wicked it is to treat others differently based on their race, and others expose the pain that comes as a result of that treatment.

This is particularly poignant with regard to Leanne, a Black woman who passes as white due to her lighter skin. Leanne’s life passing as white brings her many comforts and securities that her Black friends and family must do without—simply because the people around her think she’s white. Many times, they chide Leanne for talking with Black people, telling her variations of “let them take care of their own.”

Thus, Leanne fears that if the white family she married into discovers that she is actually Black, they’ll treat her harshly, hurt her, or worse. The reality is that they would likely treat her badly for revealing that truth, even though she’d still look and act the same as the woman they now know and love. In that sense, the movie cleverly exposes the inconsistencies and superficiality of racism.

Bayou’s mother, whose love and care for him is evident throughout the film, sticks up for him when his antagonistic brother and father continue to bully him. There’s also Ira, Bayou’s Jewish manager, who relates his own traumas escaping the Holocaust in order to help Bayou continue to fight on.

Spiritual Elements

A couple of characters pray or refer to praying. A song’s lyrics mention Matthew 7:7: “Seek, and you will find.” A woman says that she’ll meet a man’s soul at the gates of hell.

Sexual Content

Two characters have sex. While nothing explicit is shown, we hear intimate sounds and see movements.

Bayou and Leanne share a few kisses throughout the film. Men dance without shirts, and women dance in tight and revealing outfits on a stage during a performance. Willie is briefly seen in his underwear.

Violent Content

A woman is raped, and we briefly glimpse the vile act from the side. There’s no doubt what’s happening, but the movie avoids nudity.

Willie pushes Bayou to the ground and mocks him. The two get into a fistfight later on, trashing a room. Ira references being sent to a ghetto for being a Jew before being loaded up in train cars to be sent to a concentration camp. Ira explains that his wife and daughter were shot and killed in front of him, and he says that the Nazi soldiers would kill any Jew unable to work.

A man threatens to murder his wife and cover up the crime if she leaves him. A lynch mob threatens to burn down a home. A character pulls a gun on another. Leanne gives birth, and we hear her cries of pain. Leanne slaps a woman, and the woman slaps her in return. Leanne’s mother slaps Leanne, too. We hear a reference to Bayou’s father “putting his hands on” his mother.

[Spoiler Warning] Bayou is attacked and killed by a lynch mob, who beat him offscreen before lynching him. His hanging body is seen bloodied and bruised. The men also shoot and kill Bayou’s bodyguards, and their bodies are seen. While under the influence of his drugs, Willie admits to Bayou that their father was shot and killed in front of Willie.

Crude or Profane Language

The f-word is used once, preceded by “mother.” The s-word is used nearly 15 times. We also hear the n-word used twice. “A–,” “b–ch,” “d–n” and “h—” are all used commonly. A character is called a “wh-re.” Additionally, God’s name is misused a handful of times. A racial slur is used once, too.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Bayou’s brother, Willie Earl, is addicted to a heroin, and he is seen injecting it into his arm with a needle (Ira is seen struggling with addiction for it, too, though he overcomes it earlier on in the film). We see Willie and Ira under the effects of the drug, the latter of whom faints from it and must be nursed back to health. Willie is seen once with the needle still hanging from his arm.

People drink alcohol throughout the film, and others are seen smoking cigars or cigarettes. Leanne references her grandpa getting intoxicated.

Other Negative Elements

We see many instances of racism in the movie—including the back section of a bus and a water fountain being reserved for “colored” people only. We also hear negative comments about other people based on race. Bayou vomits. A man steals money sent through the mail for someone else. Another man publicly demeans Bayou, and a woman spreads a false rumor about Bayou. We see a couple Confederate flags.


I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of Tyler Perry’s Madea movies—the movie series for which he is arguably best known. Though they can deliver, at times, decent messages about family, they’re personally a bit too crass and crude for my comfort.

Perhaps that’s why I was surprised to find Perry’s A Jazzman’s Blues to be quite…good?

According to Perry, A Jazzman’s Blues is the first screenplay he ever wrote, a whopping 27 years ago. But it never saw the big screen—until now.

“I wanted to build a brand and build the studio and build all of those things that I have now, and then I could return to Jazzman and other films that I’d love to write and produce as well,” Perry told the Los Angeles Times.

The film doesn’t shy away from showing racism onscreen. Violence occasionally pops up, but these moments are generally handled with quite bit of restraint, a directorial decision that seems to condemn the violence rather than glorifying or extending it for sensationalism. However, viewers should be aware that the film briefly portrays a woman being raped onscreen. That scene avoids explicit nudity, but it may still be traumatic for some viewers even though Perry seems to have exercised restraint with that scene, too.

The two-hour period piece touches on a shameful part of America’s history. In terms of tone, A Jazzman’s Blues is quite different from any Madea movie you could pick—and that’s for the better. The film showcases a taste of Perry’s directing that is much more serious in style.

Make no mistake—this movie still has its content concerns that parents will want to be aware of. But at its root, A Jazzman’s Blues tells a story that’ll show just how cruel man can be when he discriminates against those who are different and fails to treat others as people made in the image of God.

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Kennedy Unthank

Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”