Idea/Concept: This fascinating and worthy memoir of the late Jamil Nasser, an African American Muslim jazz bassist, provides both an intimate chronicle of his life and career, and a window into the lives of other luminary figures he played alongside. Completed by Nasser's son, the memoir includes detailed accounts of Nasser's development as a musician, his performances, travels, and experiences within the American jazz scene of the 50, 60s, and onward.
Prose: Nasser's first-person prose is clear, descriptive, and economical. Both exposition and dialogue are equally well-crafted and effectively balanced. Nasser's detailed writing would seem to perfectly capture his father's voice, serving as a testament to how intimately Nasser came to know his father and his experiences. Nasser's introduction movingly describes his relationship with his father and how the memoir project came to life. Italicized passages, meanwhile, feature quotes and reminiscences from other figures, providing a broader portrait of the jazz world.
Originality: As a lesser-known musician, Nasser’s unique story is both illuminating and overdue. Powerfully, the memoir also describes Nasser's fellow musicians succumbing to self-destructive behaviors and addictions, something that Nasser decidedly rejected in his own life. Nasser's memoir offers a truly uncommon look into the lives of American jazz artists--both those well known and more obscure--while his Muslim faith and activism further distinguish him as a musician of note and intrigue.
Execution: Readers eager to gain a behind-the-scenes look at the golden age of jazz, will welcome this memoir. Photos, playbills, chronological discography, and letters add much to the book's authenticity and importance as a work of musical history.
Date Submitted: January 28, 2020