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In doing so, Majer builds a bridge from the traditionalist view of jazz to the world of contemporary innovators, casts a new light on the music and its makers, and traces connections between jazz art and postmodernist thought. Present throughout Majer's spirited encounters with the worlds of jazz is Majer himself. We hear and appreciate the music through his individual sensibilities and experiences.

Majer recounts growing up in racially divided Chicago—his trips to the famed Maxwell Street market, his wanderings among its legendary jazz clubs, his riding the El, and his working in a jukebox factory.

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We witness his awakening to the music at a crossroads of the intimately personal and the intellectually provocative. Interesting descriptions of the jazz scene emerge--most notably in the chapter on the Velvet Lounge. Library Journal His descriptions actually make you want to hear again--or listen to for the first time--the music described. Cool was another thing entirely. I thought for a long time that the language was merely pretty and not true to the passion of the music it was describing.

Now, though, I hear something else in those words—a sense of the music being a subtle kind of contact, a lightness as well as a weight, at its heart not just the love or anger I always thought was there but a passionate generosity, a laughter of giving everything away, a joy of powers spending themselves, hands offering all their gifts. The heroin was stashed under the seat, though, and he was the driver so that was all the cops needed.

It might have been he was framed, set up. That was it: all Chuck told me.

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It might have happened somewhere on the South Side, the Black Belt as they called it, maybe Thirty-fifth and Cottage Grove or Forty-seventh and State, one of the neighborhoods torn down by urban renewal by the time Chuck told me the story, a strip where fires raged and windows shattered in and What kind of car was Ammons driving that night—a Cadillac Fleetwood, red and heavy with chrome? Or a boxy black Buick Electra , a car like a big rolling coffin?

The telephone at the stationhouse might have started ringing right away after the Fleetwood was sighted, a middle-aged lady watching the street from her steps or a corner-grocery owner looking out the window and picturing black gangsters coming through his door with blue-steel pistols under their loose leather coats.

In Bridgeport, the police would respond fast. The mayor lived there, the house on Lowe Street, their neighborhood too and the power base of the Chicago Democratic machine. Riding in one of the black Chevy sedans with red flashers and a swaying ten-foot antenna on the trunk, a pair of them could have spotted the car coming into the neighborhood or maybe not in the neighborhood at all but still over on the other side, the east end of the sector.

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The Velvet Lounge: On Late Chicago Jazz | Jazz Studies Online

The way Ammons was driving might have pissed them off, a big black man driving easy and fast, the Fleetwood boating around a corner off Southern Parkway, Ammons with a good high going that night and grooving on the deep power reserve of the engine, on his home ground and feeling comfortable, his passenger lighting up a nice matchstick reefer out of the pack as casually as he would a Chesterfield, pure Panama Red.

The police car would get right up on the tail of the Cadillac. Show him who the hell was boss.

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He moved quickly, sliding the package of heroin under the seat. In his hurry he gave it such a push that it came out the other side in the back, riding over the transmission hump and landing right behind Ammons. The uniforms in the cruiser kept at the tail—Ammons tried to make a turn, get headed east again, the lines of lush trees along the street all pointing back toward the lake, all the neon signs seeming to read backwards, everything suddenly going in the wrong direction. In the mirror he could see the antenna on the cruiser, a thing quivering with signals, voices, plans for a roundup on the other side of the Belt Line tracks.

And that might have been all. Harassed a while, worried a while, the money in hand to pay them off—that was what they always wanted, so give it to them. Eugene Ammons? They never heard of that name, spoke it like it was nothing, a joke, schoolboy in glasses, Hey you, Gene, Eugene , and Ammons , what was that, I thought you boys were all named after the presidents, the people who got the money, hey hey.

Hey hey—Get the hell back into the car, boy , but Ammons was out the door, standing on his feet. What was Ronnie doing now? Or is Ronnie just now getting the package out of his pocket, doing what he had agreed to after his last bust, delivering over a high-profile case the DA imagined would teach certain people in Chicago a lesson: famous Negro jazz musician arrested for heroin on South Side, Gene Ammons in jail and facing ten years in prison, smug stories in the Tribune and regretful ones in the Daily Defender , where Ammons was a hero? It was going bad—was it the cop or Ammons telling himself to keep his arms where they were?

Up the street, he could see the railroad viaduct, the incline of the pavement going down into it. A train was passing above, even here he felt the vibration rumbling under his feet. Inside the viaduct, traffic shadows jumped across the whitewashed walls, on the vertical supports painted names blossomed with loops and flourishes and snaked themselves into secret languages. On the black-striped center pier a caution light flashed yellow. Walking through, a kid could beat as hard as he wanted to on the iron rails that leaned over the street, shout as loud as he wanted to inside the noise of the traffic.

He could write his name up there under the road of the train. Listen to the booming echo of his voice. In portraits of Jimmy Smith, Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Sun Ra, and others, Gerald Majer conveys the drama and artistry of their music as well as the personal hardships many of them endured. Vivid descriptions and telling historical anecdotes explore the music's richness through a variety of political, social, and philosophical contexts.

The Velvet Lounge, named after the famous Chicago club, is also one of the few works to consider the music of such avant-garde jazz musicians as Fred Anderson, Andrew Hill, and Roscoe Mitchell. In doing so, Majer builds a bridge from the traditionalist view of jazz to the world of contemporary innovators, casts a new light on the music and its makers, and traces connections between jazz art and postmodernist thought. Present throughout Majer's spirited encounters with the worlds of jazz is Majer himself. We hear and appreciate the music through his individual sensibilities and experiences.

Majer recounts growing up in racially divided Chicago--his trips to the famed Maxwell Street market, his wanderings among its legendary jazz clubs, his riding the El, and his working in a jukebox factory.

The Velvet Lounge: On Late Chicago Jazz

We witness his awakening to the music at a crossroads of the intimately personal and the intellectually provocative. Get A Copy.


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