Hot and Cool: Jazz Short Stories

Marcela Breton, Editor Plume Books $12 (352p) ISBN 978-0-452-26389-5
A tedious introduction by jazz critic Breton precedes 19 short fictions of varying quality. James Baldwin's ``Sonny's Blues,'' one of the best in the collection, lays out the troubled relationship of two brothers, one a straight-arrow schoolteacher, the other a jazz genius who can't keep away from drugs. Baldwin writes, ``The man who creates the music is . . . dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air.'' Along with robust tales by the likes of Langston Hughes and Eudora Welty, there is an unexpected gem: a bittersweet story by Czech writer Josef Skvorecky, ``Eine Kleine Jazzmusik,'' in which the ``wicked, savage and sweet soul'' of jazz is the vehicle of expression for a group of WW II g anti-Nazi youth. Unfortunately, these first-class stories are juxtaposed with others that are trivial, plodding or self-consciously artsy, like Ann Petry's overwrought ``Solo on the Drums'' (``He had become part of the drums. They had become part of him.'') and Martin Gardner's weird vision, set in a dark church, of the devil playing a trombone accompanied by an angel on the organ (``The Devil and the Trombone''). (June)
Reviewed on: 06/05/1990
Release date: 06/01/1990
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