Tiger Rag

Nicholas Christopher. Dial, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6921-7
Poet and novelist Christopher (Veronica) mixes fiction with jazz history in this delightful dual narrative. In July 1904, Charles “Buddy” Bolden, “the father of all jazz trumpeters,” is in New Orleans recording “Tiger Rag” with his band on three Edison wax cylinders. Since the recordings were never released and Bolden never cut another track, their whereabouts are of great significance. Jump to December 2010, when, after a messy divorce, middle-aged Miami anesthesiologist Ruby Cardillo contacts her daughter, Devon Sheresky, a jazz pianist and recovering drug addict. Together they drive to New York City so an increasingly manic Ruby can deliver a professional association speech and Devon can meet with Emmett Browne, an elderly music dealer who attempted to contact her recently deceased grandmother. As the chapters alternate between narratives, the schizophrenic Bolden is locked away at age 29, and one of his recordings makes its way to Devon’s thieving grandfather, journeyman trumpeter Valentine Owen. Emmett tries to conspire with Devon to retrieve the recording from its present owner, the psychic Joan Neptune, who knew and banned the unsavory Valentine. Based on the real-life rumor the recordings exist, Christopher’s intriguing yarn lays out how their zealous guardians have preserved Buddy Bolden’s jazz legacy. Agent: Anne Sibbald, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/22/2012
Release date: 01/01/2013
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