Young Man With A Horn, by Dorothy Baker

Paperback review

Thu, Oct 17, 2013, 12:04


Book Title:
Young Man With A Horn


Dorothy Baker

NYRB Classics

Guideline Price:

The first jazz novel, Young Man with a Horn broke new ground when it was published in 1938 not just for its subject matter but for its portrayal of friendships across the racial divide. Rick Martin, a white boy with “a basic need to make music”, teaches himself to play the piano and then the horn, “a trumpet, if there’s anybody here doesn’t know what kind of horn a horn is”. Inspired by Bix Beiderbecke’s music, Rick becomes the kind of musician who “when he played, you listened”, but alcohol and an all-encompassing devotion to his art lead him to a tragic, untimely death. The prose is as hardboiled as any 1930s gangster movie, pulsing with the life of the jazz solos that tumble from Rick’s trumpet, as well as the vibrancy and talent of his black musician friends. A pitch-perfect evocation of the music that defined an age.