Alyn Shipton website header

I’ve just got my own picture and bio put up on Amazon. It’s a strange feeling to have one’s wares displayed on a virtual bookshop, but also rather gratifying to see everything there together, rather like a family photograph!


Back to St Edmund Hall this weekend for a low-key but delightful reunion of the members of the English faculty who have read the subject over the years. Interesting to find out how many former students of Eng Lit still read for pleasure and what they read. Even one of the dons shyly admitted to reading detective fiction… (Actually so do I, when I’m not immersed in reading about the life and times of Harry Nilsson). In the picture of our relatively un-alcoholic dinner, the gesturing hands behind me belong to Dr Chris Mann, and it was specially interesting to catch up with Guy Mitchell (you can’t see him in this pic) and Geoff Wall (he’s the one in the waistcoat) who translated Madame Bovary for Penguin, and who has also written a life of Flaubert (which is next on my reading list, and will make a nice change from the official biography of the Monkees.)


Just unwrapped the first advance copy of my new Cab Calloway biography from Oxford University Press. Like any proud parent I think it looks great, and Suzanne Ryan and her team at Oxford NY have done a brilliant job. There’s a positive review in Library Journal out today (scroll down til you find it under “Music”) and it is formally published in NY next month and in the UK in November.


From the quaint country decorum of Wheatley Manor circa 1660 yesterday to the Albert Hall today, (masquerading as the Queen’s Hall in 1910 it’s true,) but doing a great job of bringing one of Henry Wood’s eclectic concert programmes to life. The Concert Orchestra was on song, and the L’Arlesienne suite was particularly well played as was the new commission “Dark Pastoral” with Stephen Isserlis making the cello’s upper range sing. Some prommers looked a bit confused by hearing Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No 4 instead of No 1 (no chance for Land of Hope and Glory there…) but it was worth it for the final G-major chord with the full organ almost drowning out the orchestra and using what must have been a 64 ft stop! Thanks to Roger Wright for a great afternoon!


Back in the UK, and a splendid celebratory evening at Wheatley Manor House exploring the Restoration of Charles II in words and music (not to mention 17th century food as well). The best bit was the last, and a selection from Playford’s songsheets, as well as more highbrow music from the likes of Pelham Humphrey. These were excellently sung by Sarah Stowe, and she was expertly accompanied on the theorbo by Matthew Spring, who also displayed his skills on the baroque guitar and the cittern. Earlier we’d had dances to the hurdy gurdy in the manor gardens, but the pastoral delights were more refined in the evening recital captured in my sneaky photograph.


Back in the 1980s, Jimmy Woode was living in Switzerland, and on a whim I asked him to come down to Ascona to talk about Ellington in the symposium I used to run there. We ended up playing together, and talking together (a lot). After that we kept in touch, and he was always a great help with anything to do with my playing. Today’s Jazz Library is a good example of one of those conversations – we demolished a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream as we sat up late into the night talking about the old days…