TRAVELS WITH MY TROMBONE by Henry Shukman

TRAVELS WITH MY TROMBONE

A Caribbean Journey

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Thin, uninflected report on several months that English author/musician Shukman (Sons of the Moon, 1990) spent caroming about the Lesser Antilles and the South American highlands of Ecuador and Colombia. Presumably aiming for the picaresque, Shukman allows his narrative to sprawl, piling up irrelevant detail as he offers a largely unrevealing look at the peoples, places, and popular arts of the Caribbean Basin. Eight years earlier, Shukman had spent time in the South American Andes, an experience recorded in his first book. Here, he returns to the tropics, carrying his trombone and hoping to sit in with various bands throughout the area. His first destination is Trinidad--with its highly publicized calypso groups--where, during the pre-Lenten Carnival, he joins an aggregation called the Blue Ventures. The major insight he seems to gain from that experience, though, is that nonstop revelry is exhausting. Shukman next moves north, through the Grenadines to Guadeloupe, where zouk is the current music-of-choice. Then it's on to mountainous Dominica, where the author explores the only Carib Indian reservation in the world. Along his route, he encounters a gallery of island musicians, barely distinguishable from one another--as are the islands themselves--through the author's unfocused prose. There's a sameness, unfortunately, to most of Shukman's experiences: all- night jam sessions, boozy conversations in fly-specked rum shops, sweaty siestas in hot hotel rooms. The author is most successful when he describes a Shango voodoo ceremony he attended in Trinidad, and when he recounts his terror as he's caught in a police round-up in Cartagena, Colombia. These are slim pickings, however, in a dull and disappointing work.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-59360-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993




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