by Patrick Neate
There's just something about jazz that lends itself to every other area of the imagination. Jazz art, jazz music, jazz writing, jazz life. In NYC I had the thrill of sitting third row on Broadway to watch Christian Slater in Side Man (not a musical, but full of music). And I remember losing a whole Saturday on the couch at Glassboat's dad's house reading Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter and wanting like anything to return to New Orleans.
Neate's book took me back to both those beloved cities, and both those inspirations, with side trips to London and a fictional country called Zambiwe that I recognized in my memories of both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Like any good jazz musician, Neate picks a simple theme and weaves complex variations on it, only to come back, finally, to where he began. Two centuries, three continents and one need to know yourself.