Transport back to the early sixties, where attitudes have become somewhat liberated and there was a ‘trad jazz boom’. Although semi-autobiographical, Ask for Blues has been written as a novel, spanning 1957 to 1964. It traces a young Martin’s discovery of and captivation by jazz at fifteen, and how sheer determination made him a talented multi-instrumentalist just seven years later. Through Martin and his friends, the book also accurately portrays what it was like to be a young man growing up in those post-war years just before the swinging sixties.
While most musical biographies read strictly chronologically, some of the events in Ask for Blues have been placed in an order that makes for a better story, although everything, including the encounters with well-known musicians, happened as described. Music is an essential part of the narrative, and is woven between memories of places and venues, pubs and drinking sessions, society norms and how Martin is expected to ‘behave’ - though thanks to two influential friends, it isn’t long before he discovers the joys of totally irresponsible behaviour.
In parallel, the book chronicles Martin’s developing sexual awareness as he progresses from shy late-starter to a man with a distinctly cavalier attitude towards women, a perspective that consequently puts relationships behind his absorption with music, to his eventual cost.