“… these gigs ended like most of my American ventures. Lots of fun, and money for everyone but me. But I am not complaining. No one had a better time than I did. I would do it all over again and go home just as happy.”
Although it’s amply evident that he knows his way around a chord change, Rosenkrantz doesn’t set out to analyze the music.
“Let me say from the start that I am not a musician myself., I am not a critic, I’m just a little layman with an ear for music and a heart that beats for jazz.”
Instead we get colorful and intimate portraits of the men and women who made the music, all filtered through the happy recollections of a humble and unassuming rascal. Perfectly capturing the mood of the times, he takes us into the speakeasies and after-hours clubs frequented only by those “in the know,” places where musicians now regarded as titans of twentieth-century music would let loose after the "official" gigs ended.
Garner proves an ideal editor; it’s obvious that he genuinely likes his subject, and his translation from the original Danish sparkles. He’s scrupulously careful about accuracy–each chapter includes copious footnotes–but even his revisions are labors of love, gentle nudges rather than harsh corrections, and his notes are affectionate and warm.
Towards the end Rozenkrantz leads a friend on an elegiac journey through his old stomping grounds, the vast majority of the clubs and musicians long gone. An era had passed, and a saddened Rozenkrantz returned to Europe, passing away in 1969. True, jazz would no doubt have flourished anyway had Rozenkrantz never ventured into Harlem. But it couldn’t possibly have been as lively without the genial Dane.
A fascinating and illuminating glimpse into a now-vanished golden age, Harlem Jazz Adventures is essential reading for anyone interested in jazz or music in general.