Timme Rosenkrantz,
Harlem Jazz Adventures
(Scarecrow Press, 2012)

In 1934, Timme Rosenkrantz, a Danish baron whose lineage goes back to the Rosenkrantz who hung out with Hamlet, came to New York because he was obsessed with American jazz. He spent the next five years working as a taxi dancer at Roseland so he could meet and hang out with jazz musicians. Among his good friends were such artists as Don Redmond, John Hammond, Chick Webb, Benny Carter and a young unknown singer named Billie Holiday. In 1939, he went back to Denmark for a brief period of time and then returned to New York, picking up where he left off, hanging out with Louie Armstrong (pictured with Rosenkrantz on the cover) Eddie Condon, Erroll Garner, Bud Powell and Art Tatum.

He got drunk with Fats Waller and smoked his first joint (it made him paranoid instead of high) with Mezz Mezzrow. Harlem Jazz Adventures is about a life lived after hours, hanging out in basement clubs, raging through long drunken nights, going from one after-hours club to another, getting roaring drunk with a slew of irresponsible musicians. On his second and longest stay in the Big Apple, Rosenkrantz left taxi dancing behind and supported himself as a jazz journalist, record producer, leader of his own jazz band and record store owner.

His story is a fascinating one and his book (edited from an unpublished English translation of the original Danish book by Fradley Hamilton Garner) is an important work of social and jazz history. Rosenkrantz brings alive an important moment in American history, a time when jazz was going from big band swing to small group bop and beyond. Rosenkrantz's is a book that jazz lovers, musicians and social historians will have to read and readers of this journal are going to love it.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

14 April 2012

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