Bill Moody Walker and Company, 1999 ISBN 0-8027-3327-1
Those who count themselves mystery buffs as well as jazz fans will find double pleasure in Bird Lives!, the latest outing of author Bill Moody's jazz pianist/reluctant sleuth, Evan Horne.
Horne lives in a noirish but contemporary Los Angeles. The fiction of Horne's life is colored with touches of reality. He plays at a real club, the Jazz Bakery, and drops real names: Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Shelley Manne, Phil Woods, etc.
A drummer who attended Berklee and played behind Junior Mance and Jimmy Rushing, Moody knows intimately what he's writing about. Those who love jazz will enjoy seeing how he weaves these references into his fiction.
While the jazz part of Horne's life is quite believable and realistic, the sleuthing part is harder to believe. The plot of Bird Lives! centers on the serial killings of some Kenny G-like smooth jazz musicians. The deaths coincide with the anniversaries of significant events in classic jazz, i.e. the death of Charles Mingus, Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool recordings, etc. I immediately suspected Wynton Marsalis.
Anyway, it's pretty silly stuff, but sort of fun. Probably even more fun if you love mysteries, which admittedly aren't my thing. The earlier Horne books have earned excellent reviews in The New York Times Book Review and other publications, so it's a good bet that jazz fans who take their Tony Hillerman with a dash of Bill Evans will enjoy them.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.