Sandy Brown Jazz

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Jazz Novels

 

 

In November 2018, I shared details of jazz-related novels that I have enjoyed (not biographies). Since then, other suggestions have been added to the list. In each instance I have given a link to Amazon where you can read various reviews and often look inside the book and listen to some of it being read, but you could equally check out other sites such as Waterstones, or pop into your local bookshop or library. Some of these books are also available on Kindle:

 

Suggested by Ian Maund (Sandy Brown Jazz)

 

The Axemans Jazz

 

The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin (Pan).

'New Orleans, 1919. As a dark serial killer - The Axeman - stalks the city, three individuals set out to unmask him. Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot, heading up the official investigation, and harbouring a grave secret, is struggling to find leads. Former detective Luca d'Andrea, working with the mafia, whose need to solve the mystery of the Axeman is every bit as urgent as that of the authorities. Meanwhile, Ida, a secretary at the Pinkerton Detective Agency, stumbles across a clue which lures her and her musician friend, Louis Armstrong, to the case and into terrible danger . . . As Michael, Luca and Ida each draw closer to discovering the killer's identity, the Axeman himself will issue a challenge to the people of New Orleans: play jazz or risk becoming the next victim'.

 

 

 

 

Dead Mans Blues

 

Dead Man's Blues by Ray Celestin (Pan).

Sequel to The Axeman's Jazz. Louis Armstrong travels to Chicago to join King Oliver's band. His friend Ida is now based there with the Pinkerton Agency. 'Chicago, 1928. In the stifling summer heat three investigations begin . . . Pinkerton detectives Michael Talbot and Ida Davis are hired to locate a missing heiress. But it proves harder than expected to find a woman known across the city. After being called to a gruesome murder in Chicago’s violent Black Belt, crime-scene photographer Jacob Russo can’t get the dead man’s image out of his head, and decides to track down the culprit himself. And with a group of city leaders poisoned at the Ritz, Dante Sanfelippo – rum-runner and fixer – is called in by Al Capone to discover whether someone is trying to bring down his empire. As the three parties edge closer to the truth, their paths will cross and their lives will be threatened. But will any of them find the answers they need in the city of blues, booze and brutality?'

 

 

 

 

The Horn book

 

The Horn by John Clellon Holmes (Souvenir Press)

'This mesmerizing tale of a musician’s rise and fall is widely considered the greatest jazz novel ever published. Edgar Pool came up with the big bands. He spent the 1930s crisscrossing the country, playing in only the finest dance halls. In those days, a saxophone player was expected to stay on the beat, to swing without getting too hot. But Edgar - whom the young men called “the Horn” - couldn’t help but rebel. His sound was always far-out, never pedestrian. When the bebop revolution came, Edgar was recognized as one of the vanguard. But by then it was already too late; the world had passed the Horn by. This is the story of jazz in the transition years between swing titans Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young and bop innovators Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Rich in the details of a musician’s life - the grind of the road; the flash of inspiration; the seduction of booze, drugs, and willing women - it is also a heart-wrenching portrait of the price an artist pays for being ahead of his time'.

 

 

 

 

Half Blood Blues

 

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Serpent's Tail)

'Chip told us not to go out. Said, don't you boys tempt the devil. But it been one brawl of a night, I tell you. The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero's bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there's more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero's fate was settled. In Half Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don't tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong ...'

 

 

 

 

 

Outside In

 

Outside In by Scott Schachter (StarBeat Press)

'Shawn is a hard-luck saxophonist with an unearthly muse. His demented neighbors, a mob boss and a choir of interdimensional aliens with sharp teeth are not the only things that stand between Shawn and jazz stardom. A bigger problem is no one likes his crazy music. Worst of all, it scares off Carole, the woman he loves more than anyone. It even scares himself because he knows one day he’ll follow his reckless muse until he goes insane, and Carole will stay away forever. When his soul collides with reality, Shawn must choose between his art and his love'.

 

 

 

 

 

Off Key

 

 

Off Key by Mark Robertson (Matador)

'Charlotte has supported Kyle's precarious musical career for three years. Now it's her turn. When Kyle doesn't want to play the breadwinner, she looks to a future on the other side of the Atlantic. Saxophonist Kyle has no money, no career and has now lost the love of his live. Can an autistic twelve-year-old boy and an alcoholic 'has been' be his salvation?'

 

 

 

 

Suggested by Clive Feckner:

 

 

The Vinyl Detective

 

 

The Vinyl Detective by Andrew Cartmel (Titan Books)

'He is a record collector - a connoisseur of vinyl, hunting out rare and elusive LPs. His business card describes him as the "Vinyl Detective" and some people take this more literally than others. Like the beautiful, mysterious woman who wants to pay him a large sum of money to find a priceless lost recording on behalf of an extremely wealthy, yet shadowy, client. So begins a painful and dangerous odyssey in search of the rarest jazz record of them all...'

 

 

 

 

 

Twelve Bar Blues

 

 

Twelve Bar Blues by Patrick Neate (Penguin)

'Spanning three continents and two centuries, Twelve Bar Blues is an epic tale of fate, family, friendship and jazz. At its heart is Lick Holden, a young jazz musician, who sets New Orleans on fire with his cornet at the beginning of the last century. But Lick's passion is to find his lost step-sister and that's a journey that leads him to a place he can call 'home'. Meanwhile, at the other end of the century, we find Sylvia, an English prostitute, and Jim, a young drifter. They're in search of Sylvia's past, lost somewhere in the mists of the Louisiana bayou. Patrick Neate has written a story that straddles time and space, love and friendship, roots and pilgrimage and everything between. Poignant and hilarious, it will hook you - like a favourite tune - till the end'.

 

 

 

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Jazz As Art
Alternative Musical Definitions
Video Juke Box
Misty Eyed With Good Time George

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