It is winter, barely three days into 1926, seven years after Armistice; we are in the scintillating City, around Lenox Avenue, 'when all the wars are over and there will never be another one. At last, at last, everything's ahead. Here comes the new. Look out. There goes the sad stuff. The bad stuff. The things nobody-could-help stuff.' But amid the euphoric decisiveness, a tragedy ensues among people who had train-danced into the City, from points south and west, in search of a promise. Joe Trace, door -to-door salesman, erstwhile devoted husband, shoots to death his lover of three months, the impetuous, eighteen year old Dorcas. At the funeral his determined, hard-working wife Violet tries to disfigure the corpse with a knife. In a dazzling act of jazz-like improvisation, moving seamlessly in and out of past, present and future, a mysterious voice weaves this brilliant fiction, at the same time showing how its blues are informed by the brutal exigencies of slavery. Richly combining history, legend and reminiscence, this voice captures as never before the ineffable mood, the complex humanity of black urban life at a moment in our century we assumed we understood. Jazz is an unprecedented and astonishing invention, a landmark on the American literary landscape - a novel unforgettable and for all time.