Historically, the field of ethnomusicology has tended to neglect the lives and work of individual musicians in favour of a view of music as culture, a disciplinary perspective that has assumed the homogeneity of the world's cultures. Contesting this erasure of the musical subject, biographical micro-histories situate the individual at the centre of music studies. Accordingly, the subject of this article is a self-identified ‘local’ jazz musician, whose narrative elucidates the exigencies of his musical and social life. One of the music's ‘lesser lives’, ‘LC’ is typical of those players who negotiate the contested terrain of jazz scenes peripheral to the jazz world's centre, New York City. The explication of his musical aesthetic and its influence upon his self-image as a jazz musician is directed toward a more representative view of jazz than that of institutionalised histories, which promulgate a ‘Great Man’ narrative. Incorporating contemporary discourse and critical race theories as alternatives to traditional modes of aesthetic inquiry, this study unpacks issues related to musical and social dialogism and signification, ‘voice’ and identity, and race and masculinity as a means of illuminating those criteria deemed crucial by a particular musician in his search for existential meaning and a jazz truth.