The narrator, a male jazz musician in Kostelec, a small town in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. the eighteen-year-old Czech dandy and jazz saxophonist is swept into a band concert for the Nazi occupation forces by his fascination with a beautiful rare bass saxophone. Wearing a false mustache to escape recognition by other Czechs, he dons the green, purple, and orange costume of Lothar Kinze’s German orchestra in order to play the bass saxophone. His personal passion for music overcomes his fear of political reprisals. Interrupted and unmasked, he flees the hotel concert hall, but the secret experience remains for him an emblem of his youth and the mysteries of life.
Horst Hermann Kühl
Horst Hermann Kühl, a Nazi official in Kostelec. Kühl once confiscated one of the narrator’s jazz records when it was accidentally broadcast in the cinema. Although the narrator suffered no prosecution for his offense, he continues to suffer from fear of Kühl and his power. Kühl attends the concert by Kinze’s orchestra.
Lothar Kinze, the leader of and violin player for a small German orchestra traveling by bus through occupied territories. A seedy refugee from circus performances, Kinze recruits the narrator to replace his ill saxophonist.
The man on the gilded bed
The man on the gilded bed, the regular bass saxophone player in Lothar Kinze’s orchestra. Interrupting the narrator’s performance, he takes the stage in a stirring performance that elicits the ire of Kühl and burns itself into the memory of the narrator, a moment of pain that shakes complacency.