All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Book Reviews

157

The Parisian Jazz Chronicles

Joel Roberts By

Sign in to view read count
The Parisian Jazz Chronicles: An Improvisational Memoir

By Mike Zwerin

Yale University Press

ISBN: 0300108060

240 pages

2005

The Parisian Jazz Chronicles is an irreverent and highly revealing tour through the Parisian and European jazz scenes of the '80-90s in the company of musician/writer/hipster expatriate Mike Zwerin, who played trombone on Miles Davis' landmark Birth of the Cool sessions as a teenager and later became a respected jazz critic for the International Herald Tribune.

An "improvisational memoir" is an apt description for what's essentially a series of loosely connected riffs, told in the third person, about a wily character named Mike and his encounters, personal and professional, bizarre and mundane, with jazz legends like Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker and Davis (for Zwerin, everything always comes back to Miles), as well as an odd assortment of personalities ranging from Bob Dylan to Timothy Leary to Orson Welles.

More than a jazz or pop culture history, the book is really a meditation on the sacrifices and rewards of the artistic life, told by one who's both enjoyed its highs and suffered its lows. Zwerin usually writes with a confirmed hipste's sense of irony, but he's frank and forthright in spelling out his own struggles with drugs, a failing marriage, fatherhood and his divided professional and national loyalties. "Being a full-time journalist," he writes, "Mike had become a part-time trombonist and the instrument is too difficult to play part-time." On his love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with the U.S., Zwerin reflects, on a return visit to the States, that "America makes his eyes hurt, his teeth ache, his ears whistle. American cities wither his soul."

This unflinching honesty, coupled with Zwerin's wry sense of humor and insider's insights on jazz and jazz musicians, make this unorthodox memoir a memorable one.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful Dead's Long, Strange Trip Book Reviews
Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful...
by Doug Collette
Published: June 16, 2018
Read Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer Book Reviews
Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer
by David A. Orthmann
Published: June 3, 2018
Read As Serious As Your Life: Black Music And The Free Jazz Revolution 1957-1977 Book Reviews
As Serious As Your Life: Black Music And The Free Jazz...
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 14, 2018
Read Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 Book Reviews
Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968
by Doug Collette
Published: April 14, 2018
Read My Life in the Key of E Book Reviews
My Life in the Key of E
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: March 19, 2018
Read The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums Book Reviews
The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums
by Steve Provizer
Published: March 3, 2018
Read "Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine" Book Reviews Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and...
by Doug Collette
Published: November 18, 2017
Read "David Bowie: Behind the Curtain" Book Reviews David Bowie: Behind the Curtain
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 20, 2017