LOW DOWN: Jazz, Junk, and Other Fairy Tales from Childhood

A. J. Albany, Author . Bloomsbury/Tin House $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-58234-333-4

The daughter of famed jazz pianist Joe Albany recounts a childhood marked by music, drugs and thwarted potential in this impressive debut. Albany's hipster pedigree is impeccable: her mother was fresh off an affair with Beat poet Allen Ginsberg ("I gather Mom was Ginsberg's last heterosexual liaison") when she married musician Joe Albany, a troubled heroin addict credited as one of the inventors of bebop. Amy Jo was born early in the doomed marriage; by the time she was five, her mother had disappeared and the preschooler was living with her father in the St. Francis, a colorful flophouse in Hollywood ("like Eloise without the frills"). Young Albany became a fixture in the L.A. jazz scene, accompanying her father to the smoky bars and clubs where he performed. In addition to jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Albany's girlhood was populated with a nearly unbelievable cast of one-eyed junkies, dwarfs and the inevitable hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold; each of these down-and-out figures is nuanced character rather than a cliché. Thanks to her judicious use of humor, the book is truly affecting rather than maudlin, even in its most tragic moments. Albany employs an episodic structure that allows her the freedom to record events and memories in a way that seems true to her fragmented, tumultuous childhood. Though slim, Albany's well-wrought memoir contains emotional and lyrical volumes. (Apr. 3)

Reviewed on: 03/10/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Paperback - 163 pages - 978-1-58234-405-8
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4423-6869-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-4423-6868-2
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