Jazz and Literature #1

Sidney Bechet is said to have been a model for the character of saxophonist and bandleader Pablo, in Hermann Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf (1927).

And as he spoke and conjured up a cigarette from his waistcoat pocket and offered it to me, he was suddenly Mozart no longer. It was my friend Pablo looking warmly at me out of his dark exotic eyes and as like the man who had taught me to play chess with the little figures as a twin.
“Pablo!” I cried with a convulsive start. “Pablo, where are we?”
“We are in my Magic Theater,” he said with a smile […]

He gave us each a little opium to smoke, and sitting motionless with open eyes we all three lived through the scenes that he suggested to us while Maria trembled with delight. As I felt a little unwell after this, Pablo laid me on the bed and gave me some drops, and while I lay with closed eyes I felt the fleeting breath of a kiss on each eyelid. I took the kiss as though I believed it came from Maria, but I knew very well it came from him.

Bechet appeared in the German film Einbrecher (1930), which perhaps echoes some of Hesse’s vision of jazz clubs of the period.

Einbrecher clip

Pablo 1
Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature, by Steven Tracy
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