The genre of memoirs by jazz musicians is a rich one, filled with tales of trials and tribulations as well as success stories. To make a memoir work, the author has to not only recall events and feelings from the past correctly, but also manage to project the right tone and voice, with genuine rather than false humility. On top of that, we readers would like to learn something about the author that we didn’t know before, which presents another challenge. Every memoir here except (spoiler alert!) Charles Mingus’ required an assist from a writer or editor, who deserves credit for helping to bring the project home.
The life of impresario Wein spans several generations and eras—from swing to bop to fusion to whatever we call modern jazz. An expressive and thoughtful writer, Wein has plenty of behind-the-scenes tales to tell, and he got help from another expressive and thoughtful writer, longtime JazzTimes contributor and columnist Nate Chinen.