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Hot Jazz Trio by William Kotzwinkle

Hot Jazz Trio

by William Kotzwinkle

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Collection consisting of a novella and two short stories by American fabulist.

The main story, Django Reinhardt Played the Blues, is a surrealist concoction starring the eponymous jazz guitarist (and the other two members of the Hot Jazz Trio), Jean Cocteau, and a magician called Le Blanc; in addition there are cameos by Picasso, Satie and Andre Breton.

Leblanc's assistant, Loli, is kidnapped by a vanishing cabinet while attempting the 'vanishing girl' act. The magician enlists the help of the Hot Jazz Trio and Jean Cocteau, and soon they find themselves in another plane of existence where they encounter the city of boxes, a forest of umbrellas, a land of silk scarves, etc. There are some nice touches such as the scenery stalking the characters; Loli falling in love with a scarf, who when shot bleeds dye; and Picasso making another a replacement half for Django when he accidentally gets halved between the real and fantasy worlds. It's all good clean fun, clever and written with affection for the characters and surrealism, but like much surrealist influenced writing it does get a little wearisome at times, and doesn't add up to much - unless, it is a warning to be nicer to your furniture.

Blues on the Nile, the shortest of the three stories, is fairly predictable; a self-obsessed Pharoah dies and wakes up in the afterlife, where he is joined by his Chief Praiser and a nasty dwarf that used to entertain him. They are all travelling to their respective destinations which in the Pharoah's case may not be what he expects.

The final story, Boxcar Blues, is closer in feel to the Django novella. A pair of trapeze artistes, Poppo and Melrose, make a mistake, resulting in a 50ft drop which should leave them dead. They set off to rejoin their circus, team up with a couple of hobos (Soup Kitchen Salamancus and the Dipper), who agree to help them. On their way they are joined by a cashier called Pearl. In pursuit is a slicked back black haired, pale-faced man who, of course, turns out to be Death. Kotzwinkle again produces some nice touches: the ghost town created by coyotes to lure their victims; Soup Kitchen's face revealing all the places he has travelled, etc. Being half the length of the first piece works in this story's favour, making it the most satisfying, in toto, of the three.

This volume is neatly illustrated by Joe Servello, producing a neat package but not necessarily adding much to the tales.

It may not amount to much more than a hill of beans but this is an enjoyable little collection. ( )
  Jargoneer | May 1, 2009 |
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