Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

450

Dashiki

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
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 and saxophonist John Coltrane'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. 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, 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, 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.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Book Reviews
Billie Holiday: Lady Sings The Blues
By Ian Patterson
January 16, 2019
Book Reviews
Tracy Fessenden: Religion Around Billie Holiday
By Steve Provizer
January 8, 2019
Book Reviews
Sonny Rollins: Meditating on a Riff
By Steve Provizer
December 31, 2018
Book Reviews
Dexter Gordon: Portrait of a Sophisticated Giant
By Steve Provizer
December 30, 2018
Book Reviews
Dreaming of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob
By Doug Collette
December 23, 2018
Book Reviews
Tom Petty And Me: My Rock 'n' Roll Adventures with Tom Petty
By Doug Collette
December 23, 2018