More memoir than autobiography, this is a strangely moving recounting of an extremely precocious 13-year-old's crash on the inarticulate Iowa trumpet player who revolutionized jazz in the Age of that name before he died with it, in 1931, at 28. Nothing like the bastardized musician of Young Man with a Horn, for which he was the model, Beiderbecke invented the ""cool"" sound, long before that term came into use -- the logical outgrowth of his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to synthesize jazz with the serious modern European music of Stravinsky and ""Les Six."" Irrevocably unconventional, a proto-beat who changed clothes only when told and who drank like a fish, unable to even read the notes of the music he loved, he never stopped yearning for acceptance in the straight world for which he was temperamentally and artistically unsuited, though he apparently managed to charm everybody (except, crucially, his family) with his baseball and tennis and sweet temperament, if not his playing. He certainly charmed the author's most outrageously unconventional family, where he lived, on and off, with the other strays, both women and men, whom Ralph's older philandering brothers (one straight, one gay) compulsively brought home to Mama in the golden speakeasy clays of the Roaring Twenties. This is a fine elegy both of a man and a time and the places (New York and Chicago) where creativity and money and fame came together for a short time in America's greatest bash.