The Parisian Jazz Chronicles An Improvisational Memoir Mike Zwerin

Publication date:
11 Nov 2005
Yale University Press
240 pages: 210 x 140mm
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An engaging personal account of the jazz scene in Paris in the ’80s and ’90s

In his Beat-like jaunt through the Parisian and European jazz scene, Mike Zwerin is not unlike Jack Kerouac, Mezz Mezzrow, or Hunter S. Thompson—writers to whom, for different reasons, he owes some allegiance. What makes him special is his devotion to the troubled musicians he idolizes, and a passion for music that is blessedly contagious.

Many jazz fans will know Mike Zwerin for his witty, irreverent, and undeniably hip music reviews and articles in the International Herald Tribune that have entertained us for decades. Based in Paris, or, rather, stuck there, as Zwerin likes to say, he has been a music critic for the Trib since 1979. Zwerin also had a distinguished career as a trombonist. When he was just eighteen years old, he was invited by Miles Davis to play alongside Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, and Max Roach in the band that was immortalized as The Birth of the Cool.

The Parisian Jazz Chronicles offers an engaging personal account of the jazz scene in Paris in the 1980s and 1990s. Zwerin writes lovingly but unsparingly about figures he knew and interviewed— such as Dexter Gordon, Freddy Heineken, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Chet Baker, Wayne Shorter, and Melvin Van Peebles. Against this background, Zwerin tells about his own life—split allegiances to journalism and music, and to America and France, his solitary battle for sobriety, a failing marriage, and fatherhood.

Read more about Mike Zwerin, jazz trombonist, journalist and author.

Read more about the author in the Guardian—Mike Zwerin Obituary

'Zwerin...pulls [the memoir] off superbly, riffing in blue and hot moods, and generally clambering around the staves of his pages like someone for whom the only possible description is a "hep cat".' - The Guardian

'This is a wry and entertaining book, stuffed with good one-liners' - Literary Review

'...[a] pacey memoir...[with an] authentic tang of beat-poet restlessness.' - The Sunday Times

'...a rambunctious prose style not too far removed from Hunter S. Thompson. ... At times amusing, almost always is always entertaining, a perfect antidote to the increasing number of po-faced studies that now dominate the jazz book market.' - Jazzwise

'[Zwerin is] well placed to offer wry comments about the differing cultural politics of his two countries and about the ironies of the jazz life... An easy read and one worth paying attention to.' - Brian Priestley, Jazz UK

'[Zwerin] is probably the best living writer on jazz. And less than a year ago he wrote a book summing up his life...which I think is one of the most stunning I have read in years. ... Every chapter is like a helter-skelter ride. ... What he is doing, of course, is improvising, like a jazz musician. Not making things up, but looking back over a life full of music and drugs and interesting people, and Europe, and the way everything comes back to Miles Davis, and then trying to make sense of it all by weaving it together into an extended solo, which grabs the reader and makes you want to hear more. ... It's a weird moment, brilliantly written. The book is full of them. Give it a try.' - Miles Kington, The Independent

'Zwerin is not a jazz fan. He is a jazz person. ... Sometimes I think he is the best jazz writer who ever lived. The Parisian Jazz Chronicles...[is] a must for anyone who likes great tough writing, or off-beat encounters with everyone from Bob Dylan to Orson Welles, or an American view of France from someone who has lived there... The book is full of stuff...odd, compelling, pointless and yet memorable. He writes like Jack Kerouac would have written if Kerouac had been a good writer. ... This book alone would give him a place in jazz history. It's a wonderful book, wonderfully written, with a touch of genius.' - Miles Kington, The Oldie