_But Beautiful_ is subtitled "a book about jazz." British writer Dyer concocts intimate portraits of seven famous American jazz musicians -- Lester Young, Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Ben Webster, Charlie Mingus, Chet Baker, and Art Pepper -- in the form of short story/slices of their lives, some based on real events, some made up, in a sort of verbal improvisation. The role of racism, violence, women, sex, and drugs is wrapped around these men's lives, as well as the music they create. Dyer is a wonderful prose stylist, writing of women in Paris "wearing crocus dresses," "the curling smoke of Negro speech," and sad music like the moment when a woman's about to cry. The book closes with a long essay about jazz.
This report prepared by David Loftus