Jordan L. Jones has become a fan-favorite from the new Bel-Air series for his portrayal of Jazz, Will’s confidant and a man of multiple hustles.
When Bel-Air introduces Jazz in its debut episode, he’s driving Will (Jabari Banks) to the Banks’ Bel-Air home while listening to Thundercat‘s “Them Changes.” In the backseat with Will is a Madvillain MF DOOM figure (the back window includes a DOOM graffiti sticker, too) bobbing along as Jazz rightly guesses Will is from West Philly, and offers him a piece of advice before dropping him off at his new kingdom: “This town will try to make you forget who you are and where you came from. Don’t let it do that.”
Actor Jordan L. Jones (who has also appeared on other TV shows like Snowfall and Rel) and his portrayal of Jazz has already become a fan-favorite of the show. Part of it is the cool suaveness Jones brings to the character, transforming the original’s more comedic Jazz (portrayed by DJ Jazzy Jeff) into a charming smooth-talker who keeps himself busy as an Uber driver and vinyl store owner. But it’s also the sage wisdom he offers Will as his confidant, able to tell him what he needs to hear in a caring but direct way that steers him in the right direction. These two parts flesh out Jazz in an interesting way, paying homage to Jazzy Jeff’s real life as a DJ and music lover while modernizing the fictional version of himself he portrayed in the original.
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Jones’ portrayal of the character has even been approved by Jazzy Jeff himself. Jones told Okayplayer during a Zoom interview: “He doesn’t give me too much advice because he loves what I’m doing… He’s telling me I’m doing everything to the best of my ability. He told me I made his family proud. I’m like, ‘Oh my God.'”
“I’m glad that in this drama, [Bel-Air creator] Morgan [Cooper] is like, ‘OK, we’re going to pay homage to DJ Jazzy Jeff but we’re not going to make you a DJ,'” Jones added. “It just was a great nod to of the original DJ Jazzy Jeff but not necessarily the character.”
That nod is best captured in how Cooper uses music to help articulate Jazz’s identity. There’s the musical cues from the first episode but there’s also the fourth (and latest) episode, “Canvas”, where we learn Jazz runs his uncle’s record shop. In the episode, we see him highlight records from Fuse ODG, Aya Nakamura, and Burna Boy as Hilary Banks (Coco Jones) helps Jazz create an Instagram account for the shop. We also see him gift rapper Buddy (who plays himself as a surprise cameo) a vinyl of English rock band Demon Fuzz’s Afreaka!, after he runs into the shop asking for “something that sounds like the hungry caterpillar ate 20 tabs of acid with a side of shrimp and grits.”
Jones shared that there were other musical cues that were initially in the script for previous episodes but didn’t make the final cut, including a scene where Jazz recites DOOM’s Madvillainy cut “Accordion.”
“Honestly, we wanted to get that on the show. I guess it didn’t get cleared because actually, at first, he had me rap it from the beginning,” Jones said. “But then he was like, ‘Ah, but let’s do a couple takes just in case they don’t clear it. You’re just like bobbing your head to whatever.'”
And as for other artists he’d want to make a surprise cameo to Jazz’s record store, Jones name dropped Drake and Kevin Gates, the latter of which is one of his favorite rappers ever.
“If he pulled up I would be starstruck, and I don’t even get starstruck like that,” he said.
Until then, Jones is focused on expanding Jazz’s character, especially as the series continues to play around with his relationships to other characters, most notably Hilary. In the original, Jazz’s feelings for Hilary weren’t reciprocated; the latest episode of the reboot offers some hope for a potential romance, with the pair showing they have some chemistry when Hilary visits Jazz’s shop.
While playfully acknowledging how he’s seen fans talk about how attractive he is on Twitter — “Everybody think I’m fine, you know what I’m saying?” the actor said — Jones shared he’s glad that Cooper doesn’t make Jazz as the butt of a joke when it comes to Hilary, as well as other updates from the original that challenge viewers’ expectations.
“I just want to encourage everybody to watch it for what it is. This is not the Fresh Prince. This is Bel-Air. We show our nods; the character names are the same. But it is completely different,” he said. “So, I hope that people kind of let go of that because it’s still that tense, ‘Oh my God, we’re on episode two, when’s the Carlton dance coming? Oh my God, episode three, is Jazz getting thrown out?’ I just want people to let that go and just follow the storyline because the show and the actors and actresses in it are so phenomenal. They’re so good and the writing is so good that I just want people to watch Bel-Air for what it is.”