Young Man with a Horn (New York Review Books Classics)
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Rick Martin loved music and the music loved him. He could pick up a tune so quickly that it didn’t matter to the Cotton Club boss that he was underage, or to the guys in the band that he was just a white kid. He started out in the slums of LA with nothing, and he ended up on top of the game in the speakeasies and nightclubs of New York. But while talent and drive are all you need to make it in music, they aren’t enough to make it through a life.
Dorothy Baker’s Young Man with a Horn is widely regarded as the first jazz novel, and it pulses with the music that defined an era. Baker took her inspiration from the artistry—though not the life—of legendary horn player Bix Beiderbecke, and the novel went on to be adapted into a successful movie starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day.
His pianist had just died of appendicitis, see, and he was stuck without anybody good enough to take his place. Play, boy, play. All right, Mr. Whiteman, how does this strike you? Rick pushed his hat to the back of his head, sat up very straight, like Jeff, and hit into a piece called ‘The Sheik,’ which was so new that even the Cotton Club band hadn’t got around to working it up yet. Scoop. Rick had heard it twice on a record at Woolworth’s and looked carefully at the sheet music on display at
leaning against the building, there was another sign, painted on canvas and torn in a couple of places. The lettering was done in mock-Chinese script—The Green Dragon—and the dragon himself was right there sliding in and out between letters. The place was evidently being rechristened. Rick picked up his suitcase and his trumpet case and crossed the street. The narrow side of the Rendez-Vous was a soda fountain with a counter open to the street and stools on the sidewalk. Rick sat down on one of
light!’ He stood behind it on the running board and turned it straight up in the air. ‘Look at that old light go,’ he said. ‘I start flashing this light around in windows and I bet guys would start jumping out, one after another.’ ‘This is the same car you had last year the night we went up to New Rochelle; I know this one.’ ‘This is the one I always buy.’ ‘Turn it off. You got to have a permit to run a light around like that.’ ‘No you don’t.’ Rick shot the beam straight into a window of The
Smoke said, looking at it. ‘I am,’ Rick said. ‘I’m a damn good driver, once I get the hang of it. It just takes me a little while to get onto it after all this time.’ He looked at Smoke, who was kicking a tire to see if it was still all right. ‘Unless you’d like to,’ he said. ‘You can drive it if you want to.’ Smoke got in under the wheel, saying, ‘Well, I sort of would like to.’ They drove through the tube and five miles into New Jersey to a road-house off the highway, a place known as
Only in her final triumph, Cassandra at the Wedding, does gayness emerge affirmatively and hopefully into the light of day. At her best, Baker is essentially a comic novelist, a canny and caustic ironist. Yet reviewers, from the 1930s through the 1960s, often acknowledged her virtuoso technique and disciplined craftsmanship while slighting or completely missing the humor, and the psychological acuteness from which it springs. Many of them cringed at her focus on disreputable subjects such as