I’m currently writing a novel. It’s a literary fiction exploring the power of music to transform people. The story follows a group of musicians around the world, culminating at a concert where they take the stage together. Its key theme is the interplay between the individual and the collective.
My novel is unusual because it includes several incidents directly based on famous anecdotes about jazz musicians. The events are largely unchanged, but the context and people involved are totally different. By drawing on these resources and reimagining them, I’m aiming to mirror the way jazz musicians draw on standards: Approaching tunes like Summertime or Georgia on My Mind and performing them with new group of instruments in a different style or rhythm – even merging parts from several standards together to create a completely new arrangement.
The story is structured around a series of connected episodes and begins by showing how each character was introduced to music – and improvisation.
“Jenny feels like she’s drawing air from the ground, through the veins in her feet, around her body and into the mouthpiece. She plays faster, pronouncing each tone crisply, the phrases bubble and pop. She draws the saxophone away from her mouth, and the other musicians begin vamping the first two bars, waiting for her to play the melody again. She turns and shakes her head, and the group drifts into a ritardando to end the song. The audience applauds. Jenny stands on the edge of the stage with one hand on the neck of her saxophone and one over her mouth, breathing hot air through cold fingers.”