My life in Jazz
Episode Archive

Stan Tracey

Stan Tracey

I shudder every time I hear that jazz is coming back into popularity. I know the phone isn’t going to ring” Stan Tracey Preparing this piece has been a very personal undertaking for me. Stan Tracey was the first live jazz performance I caught- a trio with the...

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Downbeat’s Top 90

Downbeat’s Top 90

Downbeat, the American jazz magazine is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. I’m an online subscriber. Downbeat is my monthly jazz bible. It’s great for in-depth articles, interviews, record reviews, the legendary blindfold test and much more. To mark the...

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Trumpet Prodigies

Trumpet Prodigies

Before Coleman Hawkins and Lester young established the saxophone’s credentials in the 1930’s, as the pre-eminent jazz voice (OK I’m a saxophonist, so biased), the instrument most elementally associated with jazz was the trumpet. King Oliver at the birth of New...

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UK Jazz in the 60’s and 70’s

UK Jazz in the 60’s and 70’s

In the UK, and more particularly in London we are experiencing a huge resurgence of interest in contemporary jazz. A new wave of younger jazz-schooled musicians with wide ranging roots and influences beyond jazz-hip hop, the club scene, grime. Afro-futurism, Reggae,...

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Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson

My friend Ian has encouraged me to return with a further episode on the jazz trio. That prompted me to think about Oscar Peterson. Why haven’t I profiled him to date? Why have I so rarely included his work in my playlists? Why, despite his astonishing, high profile...

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Duke Ellington’s Orchestra at 100

Duke Ellington’s Orchestra at 100

"All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke." - Miles Davis Duke Ellington (1899-1974) established his first orchestra in 1924 and continued to lead it in its various manifestations without a break until his death...

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Live at the Village Vanguard

Live at the Village Vanguard

The Village Vanguard jazz club in New York has been running continuously and sometimes perilously since 1935. Reached via a steep flight of steps leading to a narrow basement with a small bandstand at the far end and a smaller bar next to the tiny artists room and...

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Jazz up your Christmas

Jazz up your Christmas

Jazz and Christmas has a lengthy and often fraught relationship. The one time in the year when the hippest of musical form lapses headlong into schmaltz. This is often the time of the year when the smoothest smooth jazz Christmas tropes pumps out of elevators, malls,...

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My Vinyl Vaults

My Vinyl Vaults

I started listening to jazz seriously in the late 60’s at a time when vinyl recordings were the only gateway into the world of recorded music. When the trip to the record store involved checking out scratchy   tracks in a dusty booth through distinctly low-fi speakers...

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Alice and John Coltrane on BBC Radio 3

Alice and John Coltrane on BBC Radio 3

Radio 3 is the BBC’s flagship serious music channel. I listen to it often; It provides access to musical worlds which I have only a sketchy affiliation with. It expands my musical horizons and gives me an opportunity to discover music for the first time. I listen to...

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The Jazz Ballad

The Jazz Ballad

The ballad, tunes played at a slow tempo, occupies a special place in the jazz canon right up to the present day. In the same way as emerging jazz talent need to confirm their jazz chops in the many obligatory modern jazz idioms from bop through to jazz funk, free...

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Introducing ‘Oh! Jazz’

Introducing ‘Oh! Jazz’

I was recently contacted by Jesus Perezagua, the CEO and co-founder of Oh! Jazz, a fairly new online platform which promotes jazz artists, music and venues across the world. I found the premise of Oh! Jazz intriguing and could see some synergies between mylifeinjazz...

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Women in Jazz

Women in Jazz

Over the course of mylifeinjazz I have had frequent cause to note that jazz has, for most of its history been dominated by men. From King Oliver and Louis Armstrong through the swing era, the bebop masters, cool jazz hard bop, free jazz “third stream” and jazz rock....

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The Ezra Collective and summer listening highlights

The Ezra Collective and summer listening highlights

I have to admit the annual Mercury Prize for the best contemporary album in UK and Ireland normally passes me by. It’s a huge event in the UK’s musical calendar and past winners have both secured and launched the careers of both established and up-and-coming names on...

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The Amazing Sound World of Gil Evans

The Amazing Sound World of Gil Evans

I have always been a huge admirer of Gil Evans. I was fortunate to hear his polyglot big bands on European tours in the 80’s and caught one of his famed, mildly chaotic Monday night gigs at the sadly defunct Sweet Basil in New York also in the 80’s. More recently I...

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Charles Lloyd – Jazz is the music of freedom and wonder

Charles Lloyd – Jazz is the music of freedom and wonder

I have been listening to Donald Macleod’s Composer of the Week, on BBC Radio 3 which was devoted to George Gershwin. Switching on midway through a heart rending duo rendition of Bess You is My Woman, and immediately recognizing the distinctive plaintive soundscape of...

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The Jazz Harp

The Jazz Harp

I had been thinking about authoring a blog on unusual instruments in jazz-bagpipes, oboe, cello, French horn and of course the instrument most firmly associated with the repertoire of classical orchestras; the harp. Having just returned from a remarkable gig at the...

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Blue Trane – John Coltrane on the cusp of greatness

Blue Trane – John Coltrane on the cusp of greatness

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by Rob Ryan, author, journalist, and jazz aficionado to co-host with him an early evening session devoted to John Coltrane’s classic 1957 recording Blue Trane. The event took place at a local pub, The Dartmouth Arms, as part of a...

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Jazz Around The World: International Jazz Day 30 April 2023

Jazz Around The World: International Jazz Day 30 April 2023

From my opening comments in launching mylifeinjazz late in 2021 right the way through the many blogs and curated playlists that have followed I have been keen to underline that while jazz was born in the USA and represents a uniquely important musical contribution...

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A new generation of jazz elders

A new generation of jazz elders

The recent deaths of Ahmad Jamal and Wayne Shorter has deprived the jazz world of two of its longest-lived masters, each of whose careers ran for over 70 years. I have recently finished reading Adam Levy’s superb new biography of Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus....

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Jazz Terminology

Jazz Terminology

Jazz is an art form that has developed its own language, much of it mystifying to the general listener. Often deliberately mystifying to preserve jazz’s hard won outsider status.  Jazz has always been positioned outside the cultural and musical mainstream. This is...

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I was there – Great nights at Ronnie Scott’s

I was there – Great nights at Ronnie Scott’s

Nothing, no recording, or broadcast beats the experience of jazz heard live, in the moment. As bassist, bandleaders and educator Graham Collier put it.  “Jazz happens in real time, once “  I am just finishing Aidan Levy’s monumental biography of Sonny Rollins’s 70...

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1959 – The miraculous year for recorded jazz

1959 – The miraculous year for recorded jazz

In this piece I want to make the case for regarding 1959 as the true annus mirabalis- the miraculous year- in the history of recorded jazz.   Of course, pioneering music was recorded before and since and is being recorded as you read this piece. The same goes for the...

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Immediately recognisable – The primary of sound in Jazz

Immediately recognisable – The primary of sound in Jazz

While It falls to very few jazz musicians to reach the status of true jazz virtuosi all jazz musicians, particularly instrumentalists/horn players devote much effort to achieving a unique sound. Better still one that is instantly recognisable. And this imperative...

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The Art of Improvisation – Volume 2

The Art of Improvisation – Volume 2

Late last year I posted an article, The Art of Improvisation celebrating French Jazz Magazine’s selection of the 500 greatest solos in the 100 years of recorded. Quite an undertaking!  My playlist featured several of their selected recordings running from the late...

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New Year Playlist 2022

New Year Playlist 2022

Now that the countdown has begun to December 31st here’s a playlist packed with rhythmic, funky, soulful jazz tracks to brighten up your New Year’s Eve and the early days of 2023. Over six hours of music, no smooth jazz in sight, naturally, just a wide selection of...

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The Art of Improvisation – Volume 1

The Art of Improvisation – Volume 1

“I mean, there is theoretically, possibly a mind-blowing version of ‘Autumn Leaves’ that has not been played.” Fred Hersch I subscribe to three monthly jazz magazines. In ascending order of longevity, Downbeat which has been covering jazz from the U.S. since the...

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Yule Jazz 2022

Yule Jazz 2022

With the end of year holiday season fast approaching I’m holding back on my word count and have focused on assembling two playlists, a selection of Christmas associated tunes stretching the jazz vibe to its limits- from Oscar Peterson to James Brown. I’ll post a...

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Beeping not Bopping

Beeping not Bopping

‘Jazz is musical humour.’ Bix Beiderbecke Following Danny’s piece about Ronnie Scott I was inspired to write something about jazz and humour. One of my favourite stories features the late drummer Laurie Morgan, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Harpo Marx. He...

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Beeping not Bopping

Great nights at Ronnie Scott’s

I’m a Londoner and while I’ve listened to live jazz in New York, Chicago, the West Coast and at numerous clubs and festivals in Europe, many of the standout moments in my live jazz listening have taken place at Ronnie Scott’s club in Soho. Ronnie Scott and Ronnie...

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Coming back to Keith Jarrett

Coming back to Keith Jarrett

To mark the start of this year’s EFG London jazz festival BBC aired a feature length documentary on Keith Jarrett, the great American pianist, aptly titled The Art of Improvisation. Watch the Documentary on BBC iPlayer here. Jarrett is unique in so many ways- a child...

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Pharoah Sanders and Ramsey Lewis

Pharoah Sanders and Ramsey Lewis

Contrasting studies in Jazz Jazz means so many things to so many people. It has a huge expressive array, a range that continues to broaden with each passing decade. Jazz is played and listened to in all five continents and always co-opts local musical and cultural...

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Beneath the Bassline

Beneath the Bassline

...a brief history of the Bass in Jazz. Talk to any jazz musician and they will almost certainly reference the pivotal role of the bass. While not always so obvious to the listener in live performances the bass provides the rhythmic and harmonic pulse that is the glue...

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Songs for my grandchildren

Songs for my grandchildren

Over the last five years, much to my surprise and delight I’ve been playing regular gigs around London and beyond with two non-professional bands: The Equinox Jazz Quartet and Footprints. Following fifty years of being a jazz observer I can now draw on the experience...

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Jazz in real time

Jazz in real time

I have been reflecting on one of the paradoxes of live jazz-the extent to which the live performances we hear from are rehearsed or not. And this raises a further question concerning a jazz musician’s fitness or readiness to appear on the professional bandstand. Prior...

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Sounds of Summer 2022

Sounds of Summer 2022

With the effects of Covid still lingering in terms of my exposure to live gigs my listening this year has been prompted by three influences. Firstly, my subscriptions to three jazz magazines, in order of publishing longevity, the U.S. Jazz bible Downbeat which first...

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Ethan Iverson at the Vortex

Ethan Iverson at the Vortex

The Vortex jazz club in Hackney is one of my favourite places to hear jazz in London. It also has the advantage of being a mere 30-minute train ride from where I live. For many years based in a glass cube overlooking Gillett Square in Dalston, one of the liveliest and...

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Jazz Genres

Jazz Genres

I have been asked by Anthony, my friend and regular subscriber to mylifeinjazz to devote a chapter to decoding some of the ways that jazz is described. In a future blog I plan to delve into some of the mysteries of the jazz lexicon. By its very nature is hard to break...

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The Real McCoy

The Real McCoy

McCoy Tyner has always loomed large in my jazz listening. This is inevitable given that for almost six years he played an elemental role in John Coltrane’s classic 1960’s quartet. And no quartet in the history of jazz had a bigger, more continuing impact than this...

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Jazz in the movies

Jazz in the movies

Jazz and the movies have a lineage stretching back to the early days and remarkable longevity of Hollywood musicals. The starting point, appropriately enough was The Jazz Singer, the first big budget talkie with fully synchronized sound in 1927 via the twenty year...

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Mike Westbrook – On Duke’s Birthday

Mike Westbrook – On Duke’s Birthday

Last week I attended a sold-out performance at Ronnie Scott’s in London by Mike Westbrook’s Uncommon Orchestra of his early-80’s masterwork – On Duke’s Birthday. Mike Westbrook’s tribute to Duke Ellington. It was an emotional occasion both for Mike Westbrook who this...

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Flawed Personalities – Incomparable Sounds

Flawed Personalities – Incomparable Sounds

“Miles is a potentate. He’s also a puritan, and the combination can be pretty sadistic.” – Lena Horne “Stan Getz is a great bunch of guys.” – Zoot Sims “Stan Getz! Stan Getz has the most voluptuous sound of any tenor player that ever lived, silky and strong, totally...

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Jazz virtuosi in real time

Jazz virtuosi in real time

Part of the distinctive attraction of jazz is that it is best experienced live, in real time. While pedestrian live performances can’t match the quality of great recordings nothing can beat experiencing an inspirational jazz performance in real time. I had just that...

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The quintet of the year – Or any year

The quintet of the year – Or any year

In 1953 a group of young Canadian jazz enthusiasts who had recently founded the New Jazz Society of Toronto had an idea; to book four of the five founding fathers of modern jazz for a date at the 2300-seater Massey Hall, Toronto’s equivalent of Carnegie Hall. The...

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Jazz Standards

Jazz Standards

I have recently been reading The Jazz Standards by Ted Gioia. Gioia is a jazz musician, author and critic with numerous jazz titles to his name. The book briefly summarizes the historical and musical context for over 450 jazz standards and recommends a range of...

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Whatever gets you through the night (and day)

Whatever gets you through the night (and day)

I am really pleased that the first guest post on the mylifeinjazz website comes from my good friend Carl Gardner As you can see Carl has plotted his own path into jazz. Carl hosts a monthly jazz discussion group where each of the members curates a playlist of up to...

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Jackie McLean – Bebop Royalty

Jackie McLean – Bebop Royalty

Jackie Mclean was a great bebop alto saxophonist whose status and influence is too rarely discussed In my early jazz days, it took me a while to “get” Jackie McLean. His rather vinegary tone didn’t help, as did the fact that he could occasionally sound out of tune.  I...

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Albums of the year 2021

Albums of the year 2021

NEW RELEASES A selection of 10 albums that particularly caught my attention in 2021 with the best left to last. Bill Charlap; Street of Dreams Bill Charlap, the New York based pianist is an established master of the art of the piano trio. He is particularly renowned...

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Christmas Playlist 2021

Christmas Playlist 2021

“So here it is …” my especially curated Christmas jazz playlist. Starting with Bird and Rahsaan Roland Kirk by way of Kurt Elling, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. A first time for everything! I do hope that you’ll enjoy them I’m working on new non-Christmas posts...

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The Blues – My journey into jazz

The Blues – My journey into jazz

It is a truism to say that the blues lies at the heart of jazz, whatever the style, whatever the era. Jazz’s roots in the blues are obvious when listening to the early jazz masters, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and the many practitioners of the art...

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Sonny Rollins – Before and after The Bridge

Sonny Rollins – Before and after The Bridge

Every jazz fan has a favourite saxophonist. Mine is Sonny Rollins.  For me, despite the intense competition at the top of the saxophone universe- Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young from the pre-bebop era, Bird, Trane, Joe Henderson, Branford Marsalis, Paul Gonsalves,...

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Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon

I recently chanced upon a short YouTube video of Dexter Gordon-the great tenor saxophonist -playing live at an unnamed club In Holland in 1964. This was and is prime Dexter. Four thoughts hit me straight away. The Walk. Observe Dexter nattily attired in his trench...

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