"Dreaming of Ella," by Francelia Belton, in Denver Noir, edited by Cynthia Swanson, Akashic Press, 2022.
The publisher sent me a copy of this book.
It is 1956 and Morgan plays trumpet in a nightclub in the Five Points, Denver's home for jazz and African-American culture. He inherited the horn and his talent from his father, who died young. HIs mother told him that his dad "was playing the devils' horn and one day the devil would collect his due."
Well, you can't complain that this story isn't noir enough, can you?
Morgan's great dream is to play some day with Ella Fitzgerald and, wonder of wonders, one night she walks into the club. She wants to sing a number with the band. And yes, she may even be in the market for a new trumpet player.
And then a phone call changes everything and Morgan's life begins to skid wildly off the rails. It seems like the devil may be back for a second helping.
I often wish the Akashic Books' Noir Cities series had more historical tales. This is a nice one.