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Talking The Groove: Jazz Words From The Morning Star


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Talking The Groove: Jazz Words From The Morning Star
Chris Searle
394 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-9163206-7-3
Jazz In Britain

Although Marxist-Leninist theory itself has proved to be, at best, a blind alley—and, at worst, in practice the enemy of the freedoms it claims to champion—writers from the Left have contributed much to the study of jazz, an art form which has ideas of freedom, both artistic and societal, at its core. The Trotskyist cultural historian Frank Kofsky wrote the first study of the American New Thing in Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (Pathfinder Press, 1970). The British academic and Communist Party stalwart Eric Hobsbawm, writing under the pseudonym Francis Newton, published the first detailed study of the economics of jazz in The Jazz Scene (MacGibbon and Kee, 1959). By contrast, Britain's only overtly rightwing writer about jazz, the poet Philip Larkin, wrote mostly drivel shot through with racism.

The great strength of Left jazz criticism is that it places the music in a social context, rather than treating it like the ivory-tower conservatoire art it is not. Chris Searle, for nearly three decades the jazz correspondent of the Morning Star—founded as The Daily Worker by the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1930—is always worth reading for this reason.

Talking The Groove: Jazz Words from the Morning Star is a collection of pieces that have appeared in the paper since the mid 2010s. There are 158 of these pieces. Among the most enjoyable are reviews of or short interviews with (the two forms are frequently combined) members of the London underground scene which has emerged since 2015, includng Yazz Ahmed, Denys Baptiste, Alina Bzhezhinska, Moses Boyd, Elliot Galvin, Camilla George, Binker Golding, Laura Jurd, Mark Kavuma and Rob Luft, all of whom will be familiar to regular readers of All About Jazz. Among their US fellow travellers covered are Kris Davis, Mary Halvorson, James Brandon Lewis and Marc Ribot. The only serious omissions are items about America's left-leaning Irreversible Entanglements and Jaimie Branch; the omission of Branch is particularly curious given that in the late 2010s, on several occasions she and her Fly Or Die band played and recorded in clubs in London's Hackney, an area very much on Searle's beat. (Anyone wishing to catch up on Branch's work could start here.)

Talking The Groove comes with two CDs of previously unreleased music relevant to Searle's text, though not directly referenced by it. They represent an earlier generation of British-based artists than most of those covered in the book and and include recordings of John Stevens, Chris McGregor, Brotherhood of Breath, Trevor Watts, Mark Sanders and Splinters (whose lineup included Tubby Hayes and Stan Tracey).



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