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When we first meet her, Jessie Choi is in crisis. During a recent concert, the young trumpet player froze like the proverbial deer in the headlights and was upstaged by a trumpet-playing band mate who leapt in to fill the void. Suffering from severe self-doubt, she seeks comfort from her mentor and teacher, veteran jazz bassist Jimmy Hightower, and his sax-playing wife, Margot, wise elders who offer counsel, support and blueberry pancakes. But, ultimately, Jessie will have to find her own way into the elusive zone of connection with the music, an area that Jimmy refers to as “the blue.”
Jessie’s journey unfolds through the richly detailed and vividly colored panels of Dave Chisholm’s 2022 graphic novel Enter the Blue (Z2). This homage to the artistic process takes place in the real world as well as a dream realm in which Jessie gains insights from the spectral forms of Art Blakey, Duke Ellington, Charlie Haden, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, each of whom share their philosophies about the music. The journey takes on added urgency as Jessie searches for Jimmy in “the blue,” as her beloved mentor has lapsed into a coma. The book also serves as a love letter to Blue Note Records, with classic album covers from John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard and Jimmy Smith, among others, popping up throughout the narrative (and lining the apartment walls of über jazz fan Sherm, who explains his theory of “the blue” to Jessie).
In this excerpt, Jessie, while desperately trying to track down Jimmy in “the blue,” encounters one of the most iconic figures in jazz history.
Click on the slideshow below to enlarge.
Featured images and graphic novel excerpt by Dave Chisholm, courtesy of Z2 Comics.