Owen Martell - Intermission (3 stars)

A real life inspired jazz novel that's cold and bleak but written with real soul

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Owen Martell - Intermission

Celebrated American jazz pianist Bill Evans was haunted by tragedy. Raised by an abusive father, he saw his bassist Scott LaFaro die in a car accident and witnessed the suicides of both his girlfriend and brother before he finally succumbed to decades of heroin abuse in 1980. One friend called it ‘the longest suicide in history’.

In his debut English-language novel, Welsh author Owen Martell imagines the intermission in Evans’ heart-breaking narrative when, distraught following LaFaro’s death in 1961 just days after recording the seminal Sunday at the Village Vanguard, he disappeared.

Quoting Miles Davis – ‘don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there’ – Martell invites you to read between his words, a rhythmic, figurative language resembling a kind of jazz prose. The perspective shifts around his family before finally landing on Evans, the heavy silences between the characters evoking a spectre of intolerable confusion and sadness. It’s a cold, bleak, consciously uneventful read, but written with real soul.

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