Hi, after receiving the book proof of “Thurlow Junction” this week, my mind wandered to a quote in it that I am particularly proud of. While chasing the baddie in his beloved MX5, Sheriff Withers contemplates turning on his CD of Django tunes. But: “He needed to concentrate, not be wafted away into some dark, smoky French jazz club, where sinewy women and beret-wearing stevedores locked hips together over cheap whisky and Gauloises cigarettes.”
Withers just loves Django, as do I. Funny that! Django Reinhardt was a Belgian gypsy who grew up to become one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time. Together with his friend, virtuoso violinist Stephane Grapelly, Django formed the Quintet of the Hot Club of France in 1934, and until his death in 1953, he performed to wide acclaim, playing classic numbers by Cole Porter and Gershwin, among others, as well as creating his own masterpieces, most notably “Djangology” and “Nuances”. Check him out. You won’t regret it.
This chain of thought inevitably led me to the subject of jazz in literature. There are numerous references to the music, of course, not least in the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (“The Great Gatsby” and “Tender Is The Night”). But I was more interested in fictional characters who actually played jazz.
In V, the 1963 debut novel by Thomas Pynchon, one of the minor characters is an innovative saxophone player by the name of McClintic Sphere. It is believed he is based on real-life saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman. Not only that, but the name Sphere has a real resonance with jazz buffs, as this is the middle name of pianist Thelonius Monk.
Sherlock Holmes, of course, was a noted violinist, but there is no evidence to suggest he played anything like jazz. However, there is one fictional icon who really can get down with the flow. She’s only eight years old and has a brother named Bart. Yes, you’ve guessed it… the star of the show is Lisa Simpson, the baritone saxophone-playing daughter of Homer and Marge. Jazz is safe in her yellow fingers!
But if you want to be serious, there’s always Django…