Mike Zwerin’s new book is dedicated to, among others, ‘point men everywhere’. A point man is the soldier sent ahead of a patrol to spy out the land, and, by extension, a metaphor for pioneers and risk-takers in any field. Zwerin’s field is jazz and his lament is that there are no point men any more: Armstrong and Young, Parker and Ellington are long gone, and only a fool would say that they have been in any way replaced. The music itself is largely ignored by the general population. Robert Crumb moaned to Zwerin that when he founded a traditional jazz band in San Francisco, ‘people just walked by us like we were shrubbery’.
Mike Zwerin is now in his seventies; as a very young man in 1949 he played trombone on Miles Davis’s famous ‘Birth of the Cool’ sessions. He was a good, but not a great player: he has now even lost the distinction of being the last name in the index