Mike Zwerin, Gone at 79


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Last summer, I had the privilege of presenting the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award of the Jazz Journalists Association to Mike Zwerin, my successor in the chain of winners of that honor. Mike was unable to make the trip from his home in France and accepted in absentia. That missed opportunity meant that I will never have the pleasure of a personal meeting with a cherished colleague. Mike died early this morning in a Paris hospital at the age of 79, following a long illness. Our correspondence over the years provided me insights and great satisfactions. His end of it was witty and acerbic, in keeping with his columns in the International Herald Tribune and, in later years, Bloomberg News.

Zwerin's books Swing Under The Nazis: Jazz As A Metaphor For Freedom and The Parisian Chronicles are essential items in any serious collection of writing about jazz. His first fame was as a fine valve trombonist and bass trumpeter, a member of the original Birth of the Cool band led by Miles Davis in collaboration with Gerry Mulligan, Gil Evans and John Lewis. In his journalism career, in addition to his award-winning work for the International Herald-Tribune, he wrote for The Village Voice, Rolling Stone and Down Beat, among other publications. Mike's writing style inspired Bill Kirchner to describe him as “Mezz Mezzrow meets Jack Kerouac meets Hunter Thompson." Zwerin provided a rare combination of wisdom and spice. His readers, this one most emphatically included, will miss him.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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