NOTES FROM A BATTERED GRAND by Don Asher

NOTES FROM A BATTERED GRAND

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Pianist/writer Asher (Blood Summer, 1977, etc.) reviews his career as a musician. Excerpts have appeared in Paris Review, Harper's, etc., and in the author's The Electric Cotillion (1970). Asher gives a smoke-filled memoir of his early days as a saloon pianist while simultaneously charting the ups and downs of jazz and swing during the past five decades. He began as a classical pianist in red-brick Worcester, Mass., but in his mid- teens was seduced by jazz virtuoso Jackie Byard into a lifelong existence in cafes, joints, buckets of blood, holes-in-the-wall, cathouses, and garbage dumps. His first jobs were while still in high school and included playing for completely nude hootch dancers--an afternoon stag show at the Good Ship Madam Zucchini. His first big gig was with the Hal Harganian band at the Foxes and Hounds, an antediluvian 500-seat barn of a show-club, which burned to the ground, suspiciously. Asher captures these old clubs marvelously: ``a whiff from the open door of a seedy south-of- Market barroom in San Francisco, peering through the slats of a darkened club in the bright afternoon, can summon full-blown, in all their squalor and glory, Dominic's Cafe, Blue Marlin, Tiny's Carousel, Good Ship Madam Zucchini, Foxes and Hounds....'' Asher regretted not being black while playing in Boston's Back Bay venue or during his first all-black after-hours jam session. He joined the hard-drinking Alvie Drake band out of Providence, later moved to the hungry i bar-lounge in San Francisco, where he watched Woody Allen bomb on the comedian's opening night but recover to ham it up with teenager Barbra Streisand, who kept the jam-packed house ``reverberating.'' Beguiling.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-15-167281-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992