Young Man with a Horn

Emily Cooke writes:

Young Man follows a poor white boy from a desultory background (he’s more or less an orphan and not especially good at school), through an apprenticeship with black jazz musicians in Los Angeles, to the flowering of his skill and corresponding fame. Rick Martin may be pliable in the rest of his life – ‘he always did what somebody else thought up’ – but in playing the horn he ‘shed the husk of indifference’, and he becomes purposeful, even headstrong. He suffers no spasms of self-doubt: he knew ‘he was good and wanted to be better,’ and at the age of 20 his talent is obvious to the big-name band leader who plucks him from obscurity. Genius, in Baker, never falters, and everyone recognises it when they see it. The awful thing about it is that it can’t be sustained.

(LRB 20 June 2013)