Glossary entry for
Mezzrow, Milton "Mezz"
The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP & Cassette (ISBN 0 1401-5364-0) has this
to say about jazz clarinetist and saxophonist Milton "Mezz" Mezzrow (1899-1972):
Nobody came closer to living the life of Norman Mailer's "White Negro" than Milton "Mezz"
Mezzro. Eddie Condon named him "Southmouth" in ironic recognition of his obsessive
self-identification with Black musicians and self-conciously disenchanted and unironic
pursuit of a "negro" lifestyle.
Really the Blues (by Milton "Mezz" Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe) is a book of
his correspondence and reminiscences (at least partly fictional), published in 1946
by Random House.
Review by Lynn B. Garcia: [Really the Blues] is an interesting
first person account of the life of white
clarinetist/soprano sax player Mezz Mezzrow (actually Milton Mesirow). The
book was "co-written" by Bernard Wolfe. It's a fun read (first published
in 1946), written in a fairly humorous, confessional manner. Mezzrow grew
up in Chicago and played around there in the '20s, then New York in the
'30s (lots of session work and clubs). According to Ron Wynn's
review/mini-bio (All Music Guide to Jazz)
"...While Norman Mailer probably didn't have M.M. in mind when he wrote
his famous essay "The White Negro" (referring to white people who so
identified with black culture they considered themselves black), Mezzrow
was filling that bill for many years before Mailer wrote the essay. Either
the ultimate hipster or a complete fraud, depending on your perspective,
M.M. rivaled Eddie Condon as a jazz advocate, personality, insider, and
confidant, and was also one of the all-time greatest drug connections. All
thes e things can't completely compensate for the fact that he was
marginally talented; his clarinet solos were often hideous and, at best,
were barely listenable. Probably no one realized this more than he did;
therefore, he worked intensely on behalf of genuinely gifted musicians,
and organized many vital sessions, including a number that were
integrated...(the book purports) to tell the real jazz story, but was
fleshed out with embellished yarns and outright myths."
I think the book is well worth finding and reading...I'd recommend it. I'm
not sure who the current publisher is (my 1964 paperback was published by
Signet with a preface by Henry Miller) but I've seen in the trade
paperback size in recent years.
More information available at:
Van references in:
Part of the van-the-man.info unofficial website