REVIEW by Peter Finch

NWR Issue 101

Intermission

by Owen Martell

You’d imagine that a novel which as its epicentre uses the death in a road accident of Bill Evans’ bass player, Scott LaFaro, would be about jazz. But at first glance Owen Martell’s meditation on two weeks in the life of one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century seems hardly about that music at all. Martell does touch Sunday At the Village Vanguard, the seminal album recorded by the Evans Trio a fortnight earlier, but there’s little detail. Max Roach gets a one-line walk on. So do Theolonius Monk and Bud Powell. Miles Davies, on whose album of modal jazz, A Kind of Blue, Evans played, gets not a single mention. Recorded in the same period, this one turned out to be the bestselling jazz album of all time.

These years, the end of the fifties and the pre-Beatles start of the sixties, were pivotal for jazz, that most misunderstood and maligned twentieth- century music. Bill Evans, following a line that came up through Jelly Roll Morton, Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Theolonius Monk and Oscar Peterson, emerged as the champion of them all. Jazz was popular. Jazz was cool. It played in clubs. It was on the radio. Its records got bought. It had not yet entered the era of economic suicide that was free form and the wailing shape of jazz to come...

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