1929: A Novel of the Jazz Age

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Thorndike Press, Jan 3, 2004 - Fiction - 602 pages
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By 1929, the brief, brilliant career of Bix Beiderbecke -- self-taught cornetist, pianist, and composer -- had already become legend. As his genius blazed forth with a strange, doomed incandescence, Bix's career tragically reflected the chaotic impulses of a country suddenly awash in wealth, power, and a profound cynicism. Shy and inarticulate, Bix was beloved by both the raccoon-coated campus crowd and the men who nightly played alongside him. He is still celebrated in a yearly festival in his hometown of Davenport, Iowa. And that is where this novel begins, Davenport at the Bix Fest. Then it travels back in time to focus on the highlights of a meteoric career: at a Capone-controlled nightclub in 1926; the grueling cross-country tours with Paul Whiteman's "Symphonic Jazz" orchestra; the disastrous Whiteman trip to California to make the first all-color musical talkie; the stock market crash of 1929, which finds Bix in an asylum, victim of the era's signature product, bootleg gin; and finally, Bix's dying efforts to combine his piano compositions into a suite that would be the pinnacle of his life's work. Colored by some of the age's most popular characters -- Maurice Ravel, Bing Crosby, Al Capone, Duke Ellington and Clara Bow -- 1929 brilliantly illuminates a period in history, personified in the gifted, compelling and melancholy figure of Bix Beiderbecke. Book jacket.

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1929

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Turner, the author or editor of 13 nonfiction works, uses jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke's brief (1903-31) but celebrated life as a frame for this richly atmospheric novel of Chicago during the ... Read full review

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