The Buck Clayton Legacy Band is in BBC Radio 3 this week, and it is a good prior advertisement for our November concert at the London Jazz Festival with Gwyneth Herbert doing the Peggy Lee programme at Finchley Arts Depot. Hope lots of you can join us there but until then, try to catch the band on the BBC i-player, on BBC Radio 3 Jazz Line-Up.
So tonight, Saturday 28 April, is the last of the present series of Jazz Library. It’s been a great five and a bit years on BBC Radio 3, and I’ll be moving next week to Jazz Record Requests. But this show has been more fun to broadcast than anything I’ve done on radio – lovely guests, from giants like Sonny Rollins, Lee Konitz, John Scofield, John McLaughlin and Jack DeJohnette to old mates Alan Barnes, Martin Litton, Ian Smith, Gwyn Herbert, Christine Tobin, John Etheridge, Mike Pointon, Tom Sancton…the list goes on and on. So thanks to all and especially to my lovely production team who have made it such a great experience. And just so as you know what they all look like, here they are:
Had a very jolly time at the Oxford Jazz Festival and Good Friday tea at the Randolph was a chance to do our little show about Philip Larkin and his favourite bits of jazz. I hope to have some pictures to post soon, but for the next week, you can hear a little bit of Ian Smith and me discussing the show on the BBC. The Radio Oxford interview and a track from the band is at about one minute and eleven seconds into this show.
Back now from an excellent short tour with members of the Buck Clayton Legacy Band and Gwyneth Herbert. All the concerts went really well, with lovely singing from Gwyn and such fine playing from the band I had to keep reminding myself to go on playing and not stop to listen! The Peggy Lee songs went down a storm with the chance to re-evaluate several of them, of which What’s New and It’s Been a Long Long Time came out as my favourites, or as the lyricists for Life is For Livin; would have said, my “Faves”.
Apologies for no posts since the Clayton tour and Harrow. It’s been Festival season, with 3 Radio Oxford shows and a Jazz Library from Oxford, and then 12 concerts to cover and 2 Jazz Libraries at Cheltenham. Now those Cheltenham shows are going out on Radio 3. Check out the first of them on the i-player this week with Django Bates. It’s been fun to do a programme on someone whose playing career exactly coincides with my journalistic one, so I’ve covered almost every stage of his work at the time in the newspaper. Great to hear all that spread of music again…
I had a very interesting evening at Harrow School last Thursday, adjudicating their annual big band competition, sponsored by Nick Samuel and his family, who donated the winner’s cup. Some really promising players to be heard as well as some budding composers. A good spread of repertoire too from Basie and Herman material to Miles Davis, Van Morrison and Steely Dan charts. The star player was bassist Felix Lashman. Looking forward to hearing him play again at the Royal Academy next year.
After all the excitement of the tour, and very successful gigs in Oxford, London, Birmingham and Gateshead, there’s a chance to hear part of our set from the final concert on Jazz line Up this Sunday evening. And I’ll be chatting to Kevin Le Gandre about the band and about Buck’s actual legacy of music which Matthias Seuffert arranged for us to play. Thanks to John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk for the pic.
Lovely review of Hi De Ho in last Friday’s Washington Times. It was great to be in the United States last week, doing podcasts and interviews for Oxford University Press about the book, and getting some of the buzz that’s going on there. More about Hi De Ho here.
Very pleased to see the first Canadian review of the Cab Calloway book in the Winnipeg Free Press. Wade past the stuff on Kevin Whitehead’s short history to get to mine! And the US reviews have kept coming as well, with a fine piece in Commentary by Terry Teachout (whose own biography of Louis Armstrong is a mighty fine book).
If you are stuck for a Christmas present, just remember that Cab Calloway was born on Christmas Day 1907, so a very good way of celebrating his 103rd birthday is to think about ordering a copy of Hi De Ho. You can find all my books available for Christmas order here.
Just received news today of a rather good review of my Calloway book in French, by J-F Pitet, the webmaster of the excellent Hi-De-Ho blog. He’s probably the world’s most knowledgeable Calloway enthusiast, so praise from him is praise indeed!
My friend the German broadcaster Michael Rüsenberg was in the audience for my chat with Harvey Cohen, author of Duke Ellington’s America, when we discussed Cab Calloway on Monday, and he kindly sent me this photo. I’ve now participated in four or five public debates with Harvey about Duke, Billy Strayhorn, Irving Mills and other matters Ellingtonian, so it was a case of the boot being on the other foot as Harvey asked me about Cab, Blanche Calloway, Irving Mills, the Cotton Club (before and after Duke) and the world of 50s musical theatre, when Cab was a star of Porgy and Bess. More about my Cab book here – and you can click through the links to find out more about Harvey’s too.
Thanks to Nick Smart, Helen Wills and all at the Royal Academy of Music for hosting a nice launch event for the Cab Calloway book yesterday. A conspiracy of the bad weather and the Tube strike meant many of those who planned to attend could not get there, but those who did come along had the chance to hear me and Harvey Cohen (author of Duke Ellington’s America) talking about Cab. It was specially nice to meet Cab’s great niece Patrice, and to introduce her to fellow Radio 3 presenter Julian Joseph.
And finally most of all, my gratitude goes to Vicky Evernden (left) and Katie Hellier (right) who struggled up from Oxford through the ice and sleet to display and market the books!
Very heartening to see Hi De Ho listed by Liz Thomson in her selection of the best music books of the year for Christmas in the Independent. It’s the first mention in the UK national press and already the book has shot up the Amazon rankings here in the UK. Also today marks the day when it’s become available in the UK on Kindle. So what? You might say – but on several days this week, my train journey back to Oxford has revealed numerous commuters glued to their Kindle screens, so it looks like this might be the first serious e-book christmas!
So, the great Cab Calloway media circus rumbles on, ahead of the UK launch on 29th November. Latest news is my appearance on WGBO in Newark New Jersey with the amiable Andrew Meyer. This is my third appearance on his show after (firstly) the New History of Jazz in 2001, which was one of his first interviews after the 9/11 disaster, and (secondly) chatting about Jimmy McHugh last year. Sadly for me, this time it was a phone interview, but to get in the mood, here’s a picture of me and Andrew in the studios in Newark last year, courtesy of Jim McHugh III who happened to be on hand with his Nikon:
Today’s Wall Street Journal has a nice review of Hi De Ho from Will Friedwald, the author of Jazz Singing. He seems to like the musical analysis stuff, but gripes a bit about not placing Cab fully in American culture. It’s a good excuse for a gag about Groucho Marx. But as his chronology of Cab’s early years slightly garbles the story of the bands he led (he brought the Alabamians TO New York, he didn’t find them there) I wonder how closely he was paying attention. There is a half chapter about Cab’s impact on European culture and the whole cult of the “Zazous” in France. Maybe that was more significant than giving Groucho the raw material for a one-liner? Anyway, it’s good to be reviewed in so prestigious a paper and Will is very kind about my musicological stuff.
Tomorrow’s Jazz Library on BBC Radio 3 is a conversation with Martin Litton about Teddy Wilson. It’s a good connection, because Martin put me onto the MS of Teddy’s autobiography, which we published through Continuum in 1996. We both have a fondness for the Wilson piano style, which you’ll be able to hear when Martin tours with me next year in the Buck Clayton Legacy Band (watch this space for details). I heard Teddy’s trio here in Oxford in 1973 when he was playing support to Buddy Rich. That was a bit of a contrast, but I remember being close enough to the stage in the New Theatre to watch Teddy’s fingering. He was the epitome of the elegant piano stylist, even at that stage in his career.
It’s been a bit quiet since the publication of last week’s reviews of Hi De Ho, but now along comes David Schwartz on The Die Is Cast, who normally blogs about matters to do with gambling history and chance theory. He seems to like the book, though – he calls it “a masterpiece of well-researched historical biography”! Can’t do better than that…
After being dubbed “workmanlike” by the Washington Post, it was a great delight to find today’s second review of Cab Calloway by Ted Gioia, whose History of Jazz is usually stocked alongside mine in bookshops and whose book on the West Coast scene is a marvel. So if you;d like to read what Ted has to say, click here.
Long if slightly critical review of my Cab Calloway biography in today’s Washington Post. I hope most readers will find the book a bit more than workmanlike – even this reviewer said it made him want to get the records out and play them again! And you can see more about the book in the “writing”section of this site.
News just in that my latest NPR interview about Cab Calloway is now up on the web. This was a nice chat with Mark Lynch at WICN, the jazz station in New England, which I spent time listening to when I was working there a few years back. So to hook up with INQUIRY on WICN click here. And there’s stuff about the Cab book itself on the music and writing pages of this site.
19th of November at the Royal Academy of Music is going to be the BBC Radio 3 London Jazz Festival celebration of Jelly Roll Morton. Philip Martin’s playing the kind of music Jelly heard when he was growing up. Keith Nichols and the band are doing the Peppers and New Orleans Jazzmen repertoire, and I’m doing the chat and playing the bass. Tickets are free, so if you’d like to know more, click here!
This Saturday’s Jazz Library on BBC Radio 3 is a show that looks back on Barbados born trumpeter Harry Beckett who died this summer. There’ll be bits of an interview that Soweto Kinch and I did with Harry, and a lovely choice of music by Chris Batchelor, who knew Harry well and is a fellow trumpeter. My own tribute to a great player, and someone who despite being a very private man was a very giving interviewee and a warm human being.
Tomorrow’s Jazz Library is my personal tribute to wonderful Chicagoan saxophonist Fred Anderson, who died in the summer. I made the trek to the old Velvet Lounge, which has to be one of the greatest jazz clubs ever, seedy, run down, in the middle of a redevelopment area and yet full of amazing atmosphere. The bar seemed to be a relic from the repeal of prohibition and Fred presided over it all, most successfully when he stepped out from behind the bar and played his heart out on the tiny stage with all 75 members of the audience crammed into the restricted space.
The NY music blog Daily Swarm has picked up my Cab Calloway interview from last night, so if you want to hear it, then you can click on the link here. It was a pleasure to chat to John Schaefer, and also if you listen to it and you’re puzzled by the opening, I was suffering from walking briskly to the BBC a mile and a half through the autumnal murk, hence my wheezing and coughing, and this was because of the Tube strike. The previous item on WNYC had been about the musicians of the Detroit Symphony being on strike and picketing in full evening dress.
If you happen to be in the Florida area or if you are an online radio addict, then check out Mark Hayes Passing Notes on 88.9 fm Serious Jazz in the Miami area. I shall be talking to Mark this Friday at 11am EST, and he’s also put up a great selection of Calloway short movies on his blog site for the programme. Be there or be square…
To Cambridge last night for a brilliant concert by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble doing music from Officium Novum. I was covering it for the Times, so won’t try to review it here, but suffice it to say that that music in that setting made you realise how bleak life must have been in the past, and how such passionate, plaintive music was a way to grab the attention of the almighty…
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…
The summer of culture continues here in S W France with a brilliant concert this weekend by the Chamber Orchestra of Toulouse. Last time I heard them here (five years ago) doing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons their period instruments with gut strings and old-style bows had trouble projecting in the vast Church of St Jacques. But this time, with the sparkling direction of first violinist Gilles Colliard they really did the business, playing music off their CD “La Follia – Italian Baroque”.
Great concert down here in SW France last night in the crypt of the Abbey Nouvelle in Leobard, by our near neighbours Gary Brooker (he of Procul Harum fame) and Judy Blair. 250 people crammed into the 13th century undercroft of the ruined abbey and some worries that in the more exciting moments the tons of stone above our heads might come thundering down! As it was it was the music that thundered, with plenty of Procul Harum repertoire revisited as well as Fats Domino and Ray Charles covers. And Gary’s voice – as amazing now as it was in 1967. (He’s the geezer in the hat).
Nice gig a couple of days ago at Issigeac with Radio 2 friend Dave Gelly and singer Annie Bright. Was supposed to be outside, but a rare drop of SW France rain pushed us into the chateau which was like an old UK village hall…
Upcoming this Saturday on Radio 3 is my interview from Gateshead International Jazz Festival 2010 with “godfather of British jazz” Stan Tracey. With such a voluminous catalogue there was no time to cover everything, but Stan was in great form reminiscing for the audience and we had to get special permission from Radio 3 to use what I suspect will be flagged up before the show as “strong language”. The interview was recorded as a prequel to the CD launch of Stan’s new CD “Later Works”, played by the Octet a bit later on that night.
It’s been a bad few weeks for deaths and I’ve been kept busy as Times obituary writer – my piece on Chris Dagley was in today, Martin Drew and Willem Breuker yet to appear.
I had a particular soft spot for Fred Anderson, founder member of the AACM and an all round good bloke, so thought I’d post this pic of us outside the late lamented Velvet Lounge, his dingy South Side club where magic happened on stage and seventy punters squeezed into what little space there was.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s Jazz Library when I’ll be joined by my old friend Tony Coe to choose just some of his best recordings. We first played together on a gig in Faversham somewhere in the mid-70s, and then he lived next door to another friend of mine in Canterbury. I had a marvellous time listening to all the music Tony suggested for the programme.
After a week off because of the proms, Jazz Library is back today with a look at the career of the late singer and pianist Shirley Horn, and I’m joined by my reviewing chum Christine Tobin. Hadn’t realised before doing the listening for this show what a fine pianist SH was.
This is the month where I’m doing the bulk of the writing up of my Nilsson research, collected over the last three years or so. Today’s been a pleasure, listening to Nilsson sings Newman, and transcribing interviews with both.
It’s Bastille day here in S W France, so I can take the afternoon off from writing my new book about Harry Nilsson and go off to the local museum of farm machinery, where everyone’s nursing their headaches from last night’s fireworks and disco, and every scrap of old machinery is throbbing, humming and whirring. The best bit is the rural breadmaking, where they thresh the corn, mill the wheat and bake the bread on site – I can smell the enticing warm-bread aroma from my back garden.
Just back from wonderful, quaint Oxford tradition of madrigal singing on the Cherwell. Boys from Magdelen College School choir singing Dowland et al, with lovely aquatic acoustics, and a few puntloads of passing tourists becoming somewhat bemused by professional singing coming from a flotilla of floating choristers.
Just got the most fabulous advance review for my Cab Calloway biography Hi De Ho, due out from Oxford University Press in September. Here’s the text, and link to the book below:
“I met Cab Calloway at Eddie Condon’s club — he lit up the room by his presence and I can understand why everyone loved the man. Alyn Shipton captures Cab’s spirit in his biography Hi-De-Ho ; every page is filled with anecdotes about Cab and his music. Chu Berry, Ben Webster, and other well known musicians spring from the pages. Not only does Shipton bring Cab Calloway to life, he makes the reader understand the era in which he lived. For a short time, we enter his world, and what a world it was.” –Marian McPartland OBE
Great day recording today, with old Vile Bodies mate Ian Smith on the emotional subject of Bix Beiderbecke and pianist Tim Richards dissecting the career of Wynton Kelly. Both shows due later in the summer. This week it’s going to be a chat with bassist Arvell Shaw, my mentor, and the man I depped for in Lars Edegran’s band back in 2002 for a tour of north east Italy.
After many years of a simple layout the official site of Alyn Shipton, the writer & broadcaster, has been re-designed. The big difference is a news section, so expect to see updates of Jazz and music news. Other than that it now has a clean fresh look. Please do let us know what you think. You can send a comment using the contact page or leave a comment on a news article. We look forward to hearing from you!