REVIEW by Peter Finch

NWR Issue 101


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...

Want to read the full article? Go to our online shop where you can buy an individual issue or take out a subscription to NWR, saving £3.98 on the cover price. Prices start at £16.99 for three issues via Direct Debit, including p+p (UK only).

Buy this book at


previous review: The Rivalry of Flowers
next review: The Answer & Other Love Stories


A brief note on copyright:all authors have given permission for their work to appear online on New Welsh Review's website. Copyright remains with the author. If you wish to reproduce part or all of any article then the permission of the author must be sought, and the author and New Welsh Review credited accordingly.

Contact us:Registered Office PO Box 170, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 1WZ - Telephone 00 (44) 1970 628410
© New Welsh Review Ltd, all rights reserved - Registered in England and Wales - Registered number: 02493828
Website design: mach2media and mopublications      Website development: Technoleg Taliesin Cyf.