Larkin’s Jazz Essays and Reviews

Jazz criticism from a major English poet Larkin’s Jazz is a collection of record and book reviews that has been assembled to flesh out Philip Larkin’s oeuvre of writings on jazz. It also seeks to correct the idea that he was a jazz reactionary — an impression he created himself by his introduction to All […]

Larkin’s Jazz

4-CD boxed set compilation of Larkin’s favourite music During the last decades of the twentieth century Philip Larkin was a sort of unofficial poet laureate – having turned down the offer of the real post on the death of John Betjeman. What many of his admirers didn’t realise at the time was that he used […]

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was a celebrated African-American dancer and entertainer. She became famous in the Parisian Follies Bergeres, made friends with artists and intellectuals, and eventually renounced the US to become a French citizen. Her reputation was based on the fact that in addition to her being a talented singer and dancer, she also had […]

Igor Stravinsky: 1934-1971

second volume of the definitive biography The first volume of this masterly biography ends in 1934 with the death of Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky’s composition of Persephone, his adoption of French citizenship, and his no less important decision to move his extended family from the south of France to take up residence in Paris – in […]

Igor Stravinsky: 1882-1934

part one of the definitive biography This is the currently definitive biography of Igor Stravinsky – master of European modernism whom many consider to be the greatest composer of the twentieth century. It’s a consummate and magisterial piece of work – superbly referenced and annotated; and just about every claim made within it is backed […]

How to listen to jazz

guidance notes for beginners Knowing how to listen to jazz isn’t easy. It’s an improvised music, but it is based upon well-defined and disciplined musical structures. Does that seem like a contradiction? Here’s how it works. When jazz musicians play together, they often choose well-known songs. They don’t need printed musical scores, because they have […]

How the Beatles Destroyed Rock N Roll

an alternative history of American popular music How the Beatles Destroyed Rock N Roll is a serious and well-informed piece of cultural criticism. I am no committed student of rock and roll, though my life to date, from about ten years onwards spans that of rock and roll and much else in the world of […]

Hallelujah Junction

John Adams’ personal biography and musical Odyssey John Adams is probably the best-known American composer of classical music alive today. His operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer have played to audiences all over the world, and his orchestral sketch Short Ride in a Fast Machine is such a favourite concert opener that […]

Escaping the Delta

Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues Escaping the Delta isn’t a conventional biography of Robert Johnson, the most influential blues player ever, but a critical study of the blues itself as a social and musical phenomenon. It takes Johnson as a central, crucial figure and looks at the musical traditions out of which […]

Coltrane: The Story of a Sound

biographical outline of a musical Odyssey This is not a conventional biography but a study of the development of John Coltrane as a major figure in American musical culture in the two decades of major creativity that embraced his tragically short life. Ben Ratliff bases his study on a combination of interviews and his analyses […]