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January/February 2006

Mike Zwerin
The Parisian Jazz Chronicles

Raconteur, wit, writer and sometime trombonist Mike Zwerin has written about jazz for the International Herald Tribune since 1979. He is very much the American in Paris, where, he says in Parisian Encounters, he is stuck, "Which was better than being stuck in, say, Algiers." A collection of affectionate portraits comprising mainly of American jazz stars he either knew (he played in Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool band at 18) or interviewed, including Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker and Wayne Shorter plus Bob Dylan, Freddy Heineken and Melvin Van Peebles, these encounters are woven into the backdrop of his own life in a rambunctious prose style not too far removed from Hunter S. Thompson.

Throughout, Zwerin remains at the center of the action where we learn of his split allegiances to journalism and music, to America and France, his battle for sobriety, a failing marriage ("She's my almost sort-of ex-wife. We're buddies. It's complicated") and fatherhood. At times amusing, at times seriously reflecting on the music from an American perspective, it is almost always entertaining, a perfect antidote to the increasing number of po-faced studies that now dominate the jazz-book market.

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