Junk, Jazz, and Other Fairy Tales from Childhood
By A. J. J. Albany
(Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781582343334, 256pp.)
Publication Date: April 1, 2003
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'Albany recreates a landscape of her childhood where misery is a faraway sound floating above a voice speaking in tones of affection, terror, rage, love and, most of all, a hipster's defiance.'-Greil Marcus
One day we're walking down the street, passing a newsstand, when I stop and pick up a magazine (maybe Life) with Thelonious Monk of the cover. I kiss it, and say, 'Hi Monk.' Dad, combusting with pride, picks me up, looks at me with those beautiful gray-green eyes, and says: 'From now on, you're not just my baby, you're my ace-one-boon-white-coon.' That, he would claim, was the day we forever connected, and became more to each other than everything.
So begins Amy Albany's life with her father, the legendary though obscure jazz pianist Joe Albany. Joe played with the likes of Charles Mingus, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and Dexter Gordon. In red-boothed, booze-drenched Hollywood nightspots, chances were you'd find Albany's daughter tucked behind the bar, curled on someone's fur coat, while her father played his set. Teddy bears were for other kids-Amy slept with a '78 of Louis Armstrong's 'Sugar Blues', and later with a photograph of the man himself inscribed 'To little Amy-Joe, always in love with you-Pops'.
Written with gritty honesty, Low Down is Amy Albany's extended improvisation on growing up, first appearing in Tin House Magazine, where it attracted the attention of Greil Marcus in his Real Life Rock Top Ten. Wise beyond her years and hip to the unpredictable ways of Old Lady Life at all too early an age, Albany guides us through the dope and deviance of the late 1960s and early 1970s jazz scene in Hollywood's underbelly and beyond. What emerges is a raw and often sad portrait of a young girl trying to survive amongst the outcasts and misfits who guided her life.
A.J. Albany, daughter of celebrated jazz pianist Joe Albany, grew up in Hollywood. She now lives and works as a writer in Burbank, California.