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Mezz Mezzrow
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    (November 9, 1899-August 5, 1972)
    Born in Chicago, Illinois
    Birth name was Milton Mesirow
    Clarinetist and saxophonist
    Played with Sidney Bechet
    Recorded the albums ‘Mezz Mezzrow’s Swing Session,’ ‘Mezzin’ Around,’ and ‘Mezz Mezzrow in Paris’
    Wrote the memoir ‘Really the Blues’ (with Bernard Wolfe, 1946)
    Settled in France after playing the Nice Jazz Festival (1948)
    He first learned to play the sax at the reform school he was sent to after stealing a car with some friends.
    He became better known in jazz circles for supplying high-quality pot from Mexico than for his playing.
    By the mid-30s, ‘mezz’ had become hipster slang for marijuana.
    He called himself a ‘voluntary Negro’ and, according to ‘Really the Blues’ co-author Wolfe, ‘came to believe he had actually, physically, turned black.’
    Music producer Al Rose, although critical of his musicianship, praised his ‘generosity and his total devotion to the music we call jazz.’
    He organized sessions for French critic Hugues Panassie that sparked a revival of interest in New Orleans jazz (1938).
    When he was jailed in New York for pot possession (1940), he convinced the guards he was black and was transferred to the ‘colored’ wing of the segregated prison. (And was also put in charge of the prison band.)
    ’Really the Blues’ has been cited as a favorite book by both Tom Waits and Woody Allen.

Credit: C. Fishel

    In 2018, Out of 2 Votes: 50.0% Annoying
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