Author: Scott Bradlee
Publisher: Hachette Books
Published: June 12, 2018
Number of Pages: 273
Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) started out as a YouTube channel recording vintage covers of pop hits in a small basement apartment in Queens. Within a few short years, the group has transformed into a rotating cast of dozens of talented singers, dancers, and musicians. Now based in L.A., PMJ regularly sends multiple groups on simultaneous tours around the world. They have released more than 15 albums and hundreds of YouTube videos.
In his memoir, Scott Bradlee traces his journey from jazz piano-obsessed teenager to struggling artist and beyond. As a PMJ fan, I found it really fun to learn about the genesis of the group as well as how some of its best-loved members came aboard. (Tambourine Guy, this means you.) Scott also includes valuable insights he picked up as a musician, YouTuber, promoter, producer, and people manager.
NOTE: I’ve been a fan of PMJ for a couple years now. I first discovered the group sometime in 2015 when I stumbled across their “Grease”-style cover of Taylor Swift’s “Style” featuring Annie Goodchild and Von Smith. I was blown away by how a song I knew very well could suddenly sound so different yet familiar. As it turned out, there was a whole lot more where that came from.
SIDE NOTE: Someday I hope to attend a live show. Unfortunately, Fate has been very cruel so far. When I was living in Green Bay, they had a show in Vegas. When I was living near Redding, CA, they played in Green Bay. Now that I’m living near Vegas, I find out they’re playing in Redding, CA! I have not yet despaired, though. I repeat—someday I will see them live.
SIDE-SIDE NOTE: I received a NetGalley edition of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Genre: Historical Fiction; Biographical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Published: March 26, 2013
Number of Pages: 375
Zelda Sayre, a daring and vivacious debutante of WWI era Montgomery, Alabama, likes to stand out. She enjoys dancing, smoking cigarettes, and spending time with boys—much to the chagrin of her State Supreme Court justice father. When a group of American soldiers stays in Montgomery while awaiting deployment, Zelda first meets a young aspiring writer named Scott. Zelda is taken by Scott in a way she hasn’t been by any other man. After months of on-again, off-again courting, Scott’s first book is sold to a publisher and Zelda finally agrees to marry him. So begins the absolute whirlwind life of Zelda Fitzgerald.
The book is a fictionalized first-person narrative of Zelda’s life from her days as a teenage southern belle to the iconic 20s flapper to the mental-health struggles that followed.
NOTE: Before reading this book, what little I knew about Zelda was mostly from reading A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Ernest did not paint a very pretty picture of the woman, so I came into the book a little prejudiced against her. About halfway through the book, though, I had officially changed sides. #TeamZelda
The Ties That Bind
So, what could the lives of Scott Bradlee and Zelda Fitzgerald possibly have in common? For one thing, they both surrounded themselves with talented creative people.
In Outside the Jukebox, Scott Bradlee describes how several of his collaborators came to be part of Postmodern Jukebox. A few, like bassist Adam Kubota, he met during his years at The Hartt School. Tim Kubart (Tambourine Guy) sang and played guitar while Scott accompanied on piano every week for a bunch of babies at a pre-preschool. Vocalists Cristina Gatti and Ashley Stroud, along with a bunch of other people, came in through Scott’s “day job” as music director at Sleep No More. (I’ve never had any inclination to go to New York City, but after reading Scott’s description off this show, I’d go in a heartbeat!) Once PMJ made its way out west to L.A. they acquired several new talents, including singer Aubrey Logan and tap dancer Sarah Reich, thanks to the recommendation of Broadway legend Shoshana Bean. As Scott says, “Shoshana knows best.”
In Z, Scott Fitzgerald “befriended every actor, artist, writer, and bootlegger” he and Zelda came in contact with, which led to many lively friendships and a few collaborations. The Fitzgeralds later made their way to Paris where they fell into a community of creative types from writers like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Ernest Hemingway to artists like Pablo Picasso and Romaine Brooks. Dancers like Olga Khokhlova and journalists like Djuna Barnes joined the fray as well. Zelda found herself surrounded on all sides by talented, creative people.
Furthermore, Scott and Zelda themselves both possess talents in their own right—talents plural. Scott first found his footing as a jazz pianist, but eventually expanded his range to include music director, producer, YouTuber, people manager, and promoter—there is definitely an art to attracting Reddit hits. Zelda could paint, dance, and write. In fact, she published a few short stories under her husband’s name. (They made more money if people thought Scott wrote them.) In the novel, Zelda’s friend Natalie Barney asks, “Are you a dancer? Are you a writer? Are you a painter, a mother, a wife?” To which Zelda replies, “Yes.”
Whether artistic success be measured in dollars, paintings, or YouTube hits, both Scott Bradlee and Zelda Fitzgerald are all about that chase.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood, and Bleak House by Charles Dickens