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Various Artists: Larkin's Jazz

Bruce Lindsay By

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Philip Larkin is one of the best-loved British poets of the twentieth century—the man who claimed in Annus Mirabilis that "Sexual intercourse began in nineteen-sixty-three..." A librarian at the University of Hull in the north-east of England, he was a complex character whose poems were often witty and well-observed but could also appear cynical and contemptuous. He was also a lifelong jazz fan, declaring in the opening line to The Dance: "Drink, sex and jazz—all sweet things, brother..."

Larkin's Jazz is part of the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of his death. It contains 81 of the tunes that he loved and enjoyed from his early-teens, beautifully packaged with detailed essays and notes. The cover illustration is by noted cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, whose only previous album cover was Pink Floyd's The Wall. The essays by Trevor Tolley and John White, the latter a friend of Larkin's in Hull, are fascinating insights into the poet's love for jazz, especially from the Swing era.

The recordings cover the period from 1923 ("Riverside Blues" by Joseph "King" Oliver's Jazz Band) to late-1959 (Jimmy Witherspoon's "No Rollin' Blues"). They are presented chronologically in terms of their appearance in Larkin's life, so the first tune is Ray Noble's 1933 recording of "Tiger Rag"—the first jazz record Larkin bought—while most of the '20s and '30s recordings are on the second CD, covering Larkin's time at Oxford University.

Classic tunes abound across the collection—Duke Ellington's "East St Louis Toodle-oo," or Earl Bostic's wonderful "Flamingo" for example—although some, such as the songs by Billy Banks, sound dated and are now mainly of historical interest. Vocalists are well-represented, including Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Jimmy Rushing.

Tellingly, the collection includes nothing recorded after 1959. While Larkin reviewed jazz for the Daily Telegraph newspaper from 1961-1971 he declared that his taste in jazz "stops at 1945" and his reputation was as a man with active contempt for the "modernists."

As White and Tolley note, this contempt was often overt—White refers to Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis as Larkin's "Public Enemies." Larkin described Coltrane as "the master of the thinly disagreeable" and Sonny Rollins as "producing sounds of such repellent harshness..." Although Larkin occasionally wrote positively about Parker, Coltrane and others and, as the booklet briefly acknowledges, included Davis among his favourite trumpet players, White asserts that this apparent admiration for modern jazz was a pretence "for the benefit of some Daily Telegraph readers."

Larkin was a knowledgeable and committed fan of a particular era of jazz and Larkin's Jazz demonstrates this emphatically. But even without this Larkin connection the album acts as a great "pocket history" of 35 years of jazz recordings: a great introduction to some of the finest instrumentalists and vocalists of that period—without, of course, those pesky "modernists" to spoil the fun.

Track Listing: CD1 (I Remember, I Remember): Tiger Rag; I'm Gonna Play Down By The Ohio; Ain't Misbehavin'; The Blues Jumped A Rabbit; Knockin' A Jug; Squeeze Me; I've Found A New Baby; Nobody's Sweetheart; The Blues Pt. I; The Blues Pt. 2; Spain; Just A Mood (Blue Mood); On The Sunny Side Of The Street; Body And Soul; One O'Clock Jump; Sent For You Yesterday; Every Tub; Swingin' The Blues; Jumpin' At The Woodside; Shoe-shine Boy; Backwater Blues; Reckless Blues; I'm Down In The Dumps.

CD2 (Oxford): Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; One Hour; Basin Street Blues; Bugle Call Rag; Oh Peter; Spider Crawl; I Would Do Anything For You; Yellow Dog Blues; The Eel; Home Cooking; Chasing Shadows; I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll; Carnegie Drag; D.A. Blues; Shine; I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate; Boo-Woo; Blues Of Israel; Life Goes To A Party; These Foolish Things; A Sailboat In The Moonlight; The Man I Love; Tea for Two.

CD3 (All What Jazz): Riverside Blues; Maple Leaf Rag; Old Man Blues; Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Mornin'; Blue Horizon; Savoy Blues; Wild Man Blues; Tight Like This; Dallas Blues; St. Louis Blues; Feelin' Drowsy; Patrol Wagon Blues; Feelin' The Spirit; Serenade To A Wealthy Widow; When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful; Ridin' But Walkin'; I'm Gonna Stomp, Mr. Henry Lee ; Deep Creek; Early Mornin' Blues; East St. Louis Toodle-oo; Echoes Of The Jungle; In A Jam; Jack The Bear; That's The Blues, Old Man.

CD4 (Minority Interest): Flamingo; How Come You Do Me Like You Do?; No Rollin' Blues; Hello Little Girl; How High The Moon; Bird Of Prey Blues; Jeep's Blues; One O'Clock Jump; You're The Top; Have You Met Miss Jones?

Personnel: Ray Noble & His Orchestra; The Washboard Rhythm Kings; Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra; Jimmie Noone & His New Orleans Band; The Chicago Rhythm Kings; Artie Shaw & His New Music; Bob Crosby's Bob Cats; Teddy Wilson Quartet; Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra; Count Basie & His Orchestra; Jones-Smith Incorporated; Bessie Smith; Bix Beiderbecke & His Gang; Frankie Trumbauer & His Orchestra; The Mound City Blueblowers; The Louisiana Rhythm Kings; Billy Banks & His Orchestra; Eddie Condon & His Orchestra; Pee Wee Russell's Hot Four; Louis Prima & His New Orleans Gang; Eddie Condon & His Band; Eddie Condon & His Windy City Seven; Art Hodes' Hot Five; McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans; Muggsy Spanier & His Ragtime Band; Henry James & His Boogie-Woogie Trio; Gene Krupa & His Chacagoans; Benny Goodman & His Orchestra; Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra; Billy Holiday & Her Orchestra; Jazz At The Philharmonic; First English Public Jam Session; King Oliver's Jazz Band; New Orleans Feetwarmers; Sidney Bechet & His New Orleans Feetwarmers; Johnny Dodds' Black Bottom Stompers; Louis Armstrong & His Savoy Ballroom Five; Luis Russell & His Orchestra; Fats Waller & His Rhythm; Fats Waller & His Buddies; Eddie's Hot Shots; Jelly Roll Morton & His Orchestra; Albert Ammons & His Rhythm Kings; Duke Ellington & His Kentucky Club Orchestra; Duke Ellington & His Orchestra; Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra; Johnny Hodges & His Orchestra; Earl Bostic & His Orchestra; Jimmy Witherspon; Dave Brubeck Quartet; Coleman Hawkins; Louis Armstrong with the Russ Garcia Orchestra; Art Tatum/Ben Webster Quartet.

Title: Larkin's Jazz | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Proper Box UK

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