cover image But Beautiful: A Book about Jazz

But Beautiful: A Book about Jazz

Geoff Dyer. North Point Press, $21 (205pp) ISBN 978-0-86547-490-1

Dyer (Ways of Telling) here weaves impressionistic fantasies around the lives of eight jazz legends. Though he calls this ``imaginative criticism,'' the vignettes, inspired by photos and writings about the artists, have little to do with music. Rather, he muses about the musicians' personalities and certain episodes in their lives--Lester Young's disastrous stint in the army, Thelonious Monk's inability to communicate with anyone but his wife, Bud Powell's mental breakdown, Chet Baker's drug-induced deterioration, Duke Ellington's endless travels. The colorful essays are sometimes excessively fanciful, and they capture the atmosphere of alienation that surrounded these men who, often wasted by drug and alcohol abuse and worn out from days and nights on the road, seemed to function only when making music. The pretentious ``afterword'' is irrelevant. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)