Upbeat and hip, bassist/journalist Goldsher’s debut features a pair of jazz kids who grow up talented and tight, only to be undone by the big bad music business after crossing over and rocketing to the top of the pop charts.
Ten-year-old jazz geek Frank is dying to be a cool musician like the uncompromising jazzmen who come to record in the basement studio Dad built for his Flat Five label. But Frank’s not exactly a natural drummer, and he’s just slogging along when a new neighbor hears him play and joins him. Though James is only 11, he can already blow anything with brass on it as if he were to the manner born, and he and Frank are soon grooving together in and out of the studio. Best friends through high school, although in temperament as different as night and day, both decide to let music be their future and share an apartment in nearby Chicago while they get their act together. A first gig turns into a regular one for the duo, then they find a bass player and a pianist. Their quartet, Hovercraft, begins to take off. Frank even gets a girl—the same one who wouldn’t go out with him in high school. Some crossover tunes, a new venue, and a friendly music critic bring them to the eye of a major label’s talent scout, who woos and signs them in a heartbeat. Suddenly, the band finds itself grooving to the beat of a different drummer. James, now “Jam” and sporting a new look, is promoted as the star in the music video and on tour. Frank had sensed that star quality all along, but when his formerly modest best buddy begins to believe the hype, the end of a beautiful friendship is nigh.
With a sharp feel for the music and the sharks that feed on it, all this first novel lacks are characters that transcend caricature.