Amazon.com Widgets

Dashiki

By Published: | 7,324 views
Dashiki

Florence Wetzel

Paperback, 233 pages

ISBN: 9781450286626

iUniverse

2011

Billed as "a jazz mystery with a dash of romance," Florence Wetzel's murder-based thriller is that rare beast: a novel set in the jazz world which rings true in every detail. That alone makes it a pleasure to read. But Dashiki is also superbly well crafted, and it ramps up the tension to a nerve-wracking denouement.

You would expect any book written by Wetzel—an authoritative CD and book reviewer with All About Jazz—to be accurate on the jazz details, but you might not expect such an action-packed page-turner as Dashiki. Who knew? Commentating on a disc is one thing; creating a gripping whodunnit is another.

The story is set over a summer 2003 week in Hoboken, Manhattan and upstate New York (Wetzel wrote the book in 2004). It begins with its protagonist, jazz journalist Virginia Farrell, being shown a shoebox full of tapes, recorded by Naima Coltrane, of pianist Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
and saxophonist John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
's extended residency at the Five Spot club in New York City in 1957, and being asked to safeguard their delivery to the Monk and Coltrane estates. The donor of the tapes is Betty Brown, a dying singer who used to babysit for the Coltranes in the late 1950s. Within a few hours of her revelation to Farrell, Brown is murdered and the shoebox of tapes stolen.

Without giving too much away, Farrell—like another fictional amateur sleuth, Nancy Drew—has to find the murderer, keep her friend Vincent Garrideb, a jazz magazine editor suspected of the killing, out of jail, and recover the tapes. She also has to thwart an attempt on her own life, which she does with the help of a trumpet once owned by Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
. But that's to get ahead of things. Along the way, there are enough red herrings to keep you guessing.

Wetzel's fictional characters are luminously observed. The mildly sociopath jazz magazine publisher, Bassinger Ffowlkes; his lecherous staff photographer, Joe Pascoe; Coltrane obsessive Mortimer Bartesque, who writes the magazine's Coltrane Corner column (and knows everything about the man right down to his shoe size); John Upgrove, an archivist at the Institute of Jazz Studies; veteran hard bop drummer Rex Royal; and more. Another delight is the way Wetzel weaves a dozen or so real jazz people, passed and still with us, into the story. These include reed player Sam Rivers
Sam Rivers
Sam Rivers
1923 - 2011
sax, tenor
, who sits in with Royal's band at a gig at the Blue Note; the Institute of Jazz Studies' Dan Morgenstern; and trumpeter Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
, who plays an offstage but dynamic role in the plot.

Along the way there's some romance, as Farrell and the jazz-ignorant Hoboken Detective, Robert Smith, initially antipathetic, become attracted to each other.

Wetzel has hit all the right notes here, and Dashiki (also published as an eBook) is highly recommended. It is a lot of fun and, no hyperbole, unputdownable.

comments powered by Disqus
Search
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Mark Elf

Mark Elf

About | Enter

Stefano Bollani

Stefano Bollani

About | Enter

Carmen Lundy

Carmen Lundy

About | Enter

Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

About | Enter

Bandzoogle: GET STARTED TODAY - FREE TRIAL

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

Article Search