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High Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm
In 1951, when American jazz musician Valaida Snow made a somewhat disastrous appearance at Massey Hall in Toronto, her career was approaching its end. She was just forty-seven. But she had had an extraordinary career. her life, as Toronto jazz writer Mark Miller describes in this biography, was equally extraordinary.
Once again, Miller finds gold in an obscure corner of jazz history. With his stylish writing and meticulous research, he leaves no doubts that this remarkable woman should be known - and heard.
Snow gained prominence during the period when jazz was coming into its own in the 1920s, and Miller is especially good at setting that stage. Willful, determined and independent, she led a colourful life as a singer, dancer, and trumpeter and created a fabulous presence on stage.
Snow worked with some of the top artists of her day, including Earl Hines and Eubie Blake. "Hers were the instincts of a jazz musician, not merely a well trained instrumentalist," writes Miller. Above all, Miller is determined to establish her genuine achievements and find her a meaningful place in jazz history.
That must be why Miller comes down so hard on Snow for her many deceptions about the facts of her own life. He discovers, for instance, that her stories about escaping from a Nazi concentration camp in Denmark, after being imprisoned, beaten and starved for eighteen months, were lies, although she was held briefly.
While more photos would certainly be welcome, the endnotes, discography, and index all enhance this fascinating book.