Missing In Action

Technological glitches, downed laptop, desktop mail snafus, telephone recording device used during interviews dies minutes before an important interview… if I didn’t know better, I’d say gremlins had invaded my office. Add in your basic case of overload mixed with mild panic and you have a picture of my unproductive day. I’ll be back tomorrow.

I’ve Got Mail: Sleepless in Emeryville

Levy StoryCreative nonfiction, sometimes called narrative nonfiction, is my genre of choice. Actually, it’s more of a content description than a genre – to me it simply means using creative writing techniques such as scenes and dialogue and description to tell a true story. Storytelling is what it’s all about, spinning a good yarn that happens to be factual. That true story might be a biography, or a memoir, or about a subject such as a racehorse or heart transplants or orchids. When I began writing John Levy’s autobiography, I knew that it would never be a bestseller. I wanted to preserve John’s legacy as a manager who believed in building an artist’s career for the long-run (as opposed to today’s “one hit wonders”) and to give jazz fans an entertaining look behind the scenes. With one thousand or so copies sold over the last few years, the book continues to sell, a few at a time, here and there, and we occassionally get a piece or two of fan mail like this one received last Friday:

I finally received my copy of Men, Women and Girl Singers on Tuesday. I ordered it through Borders Books here in Emeryville. They got it for me within one week which was really fast.

I can’t put it down…last night I read through to daybreak… Thank God I’m on vacation this week…I’m usually up for work at 5 am. I simply could not stop reading… you are a good storyteller. The story about Otis Wilson tickled me to near ’bout death. I could not contain myself as I visualized it.

This is very interesting and entertaining reading…thanks for writing and sharing this era.

Here’s the Otis Wilson story mentioned by our correspondent:

Joe Williams used to tell my favorite story about Art Tatum and a policeman named Otis Wilson, with whom I went to school. Otis became a policeman working nights in this real tough neighborhood. When he got off work he used to come by the after hours joint and listen to the music. One morning when Tatum was playing, some drunk started up the jukebox. According to Joe, “Otis Wilson grabbed this cat and beat him all the way down the steps and put him in jail. It was like he’d broke the law.”

When the paddy wagon came and the white cops asked what the man had done, Otis said, “He disturbed the peace. Book him for disturbing the peace.”

You can read more about John, and the book, on his website.

Rifftides

“Diablog” — wish I’d thought to coin that word. I don’t know that he’s the first, but I just read it on Doug Ramsey’s new blog site called Rifftides. If the first day’s offerings are any indication, and I’m sure that they are, this site is going to tie with About Last Night as my absolute favorite. In the spirit of full disclosure, Doug is a good friend with whom I share a love of jazz, journalism and je ne sais quoi prose. Go see for yourself.

The Merry Merry Month of May

DevraDoWrite is now one month old, and I had to look back to see where the month went so fast. At a glance, my May calendar shows not enough live music – only the one concert celebrating Gerald Wiggins’ birthday. I’m hoping to make up for that next month and especially have my eye on a tribute to Oliver Nelson (June 6th at Catalina’s), as well as the trio of giants — Ron Carter, Russell Mallone and Mulgrew Miller — appearing at The Jazz Bakery June 14-19). My new bass-playing friend has a few gigs in June and I’ve noted in my planner her trio appearance at The Westin Hotel near LAX on June 29th.

I only saw one movie in May – Ladies in Lavender starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. A couple of weeks back The New Yorker published a wonderful short piece about these two ladies – Two Dames – by one of my favorite writers, a dame of another sort named Lillian Ross. I felt as if I was right there, sitting at the table enjoying a lobster salad and glass of wine, before embarking on a whirlwind of interviews when I’d rather go shopping. I also enjoyed the movie immensely, and loved the scene where a bunch of towns people get all dressed up in their Sunday best to sit in a living room parlor and listen to a classical concert on the wireless.

Also in the leisure mode, I had three lunch dates with girlfriends, and today (Memorial Day) my husband and I went to the home of Roy and Pat McCurdy (jazzers know Roy as the drummer for Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson, among others) and ate some finger-lickin’ bbq.

Work wise, I had a handful of meetings and did some interviews for my school district marching band story, and also watched on Book-TV (C-SPAN2) Nonfiction Page Turners: Finding the Story, a panel discussion with Dava Sobel, Sebastian Junger, Hampton Sides, and Melissa Fay Greene, sponsored by Authors Guild Foundation.

The month ended with a crunch of activity: I attended the 3-day National Critics Conference and on the last day was a panelist on The Art of the Interview session. With Q&A we ran a tad overtime, and I had to speed my way from downtown Los Angeles to the Rose Bowl to catch Clairdee’s vocal set. Clairdee is a wonderful singer based in Northern California, but she came down here to be part of the Playboy Jazz at Summer Fest, one of Playboy’s annual free events leading up to the big Playboy Jazz Festival that takes place at the Hollywood Bowl. (Disclosure: my husband is Clairdee’s manager, so don’t take my word for it, check her out for yourself.)

I’ve got high hopes for June — time will tell.