The latest volume in Murray's sweet and smooth roman … fleuve (Trainwhistle Guitar, 1976; The Spyglass Tree, 1991) takes...



The latest volume in Murray's sweet and smooth roman … fleuve (Trainwhistle Guitar, 1976; The Spyglass Tree, 1991) takes his boy Scooter into early manhood and up from the South; it's a self-consciously heroic tale of a charmed life, patterned on the ""vamps, choruses, riffs, call and response patterns, breaks, chases, and so on"" of jazz. One needn't rely on Murray's convenient gloss--the simultaneously published The Blue Devils of Nada (see p. 161)--to appreciate the rhythms and structures of Scooter's story. Just out of college in the 190s, bass-playing Scooter (renamed Schoolboy) is invited by the Bossman himself (modelled on Duke Ellington) to join the best roadband in the country. He begins crisscrossing the US not only covering the great historic trails, but also grooving on the ever-expanding world of American culture. In the band are men whose nicknames indicate their characters and resonate with the fullness of domestic life and world myth. Murray's Whitmanesque troop includes Old Pro, a walking embodiment of the canon of musical history, technique, and lore; Osceola Menefee, the all-American mutt from Okefenokee; Malachi Moberly, who could have had a career in baseball; and Mucho Moola, a rich kid from Chicago, trained on the violin but hooked on the trumpet. The Bossman introduces Schoolboy to Daddy Royal, a Harlem king who retired from dancing and who warns about settling for a hustle over hard work and class. Schoolboy, still planning on accumulating enough cushion to go to grad school in the humanities, nevertheless attends to the wisdom of his elders. The Bossman even sets him up, on the sly, with a Scheherazade, Gayneile Whitlow, who hips him to the truth about Hollywood after Schoolboy's extended personal appearance in the bedroom of Jewel Templeton, a beautiful movie star with a thirst for knowledge as voracious as his own. Murray's quest narrative finds Schoolboy heading back home after all this sophisticated yawping. One only hopes this Proustian stomp ain't over yet.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 1996


Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995