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Philip Larkin on blues. Ouch! (1968 review)

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The blues has nothing of the calypso's vitality

:rofl:

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Amazingly, I used his book of Daily Telegraph jazz reviews as a critical review of what to buy back in the 1970s ! A very entertaining read, although by then much of the review content had been deleted (old Esquire and Stateside LPs etc.)

Edited by sidewinder

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I have no opinion on his poetry, but as a critic he could be very harsh. Enjoyed his reviews, though.

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I have no opinion on his poetry, but as a critic he could be very harsh. Enjoyed his reviews, though.

I wouldn't say "harsh" as much as really dense or drastically/smugly circumscribed.

Interesting that the calypso remark is Paul Oliver's, not Larkin's. As a more or less principled British leftist, what Oliver (at times and despite his many virtues as a writer on the blues) wanted the blues to be was a protest music. This led him down some primrose paths.

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The calypso remark reads as Larkin's surely?

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The calypso remark reads as Larkin's surely?

Yes, it is sandwiched between quotes.

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That was how I understood it, too.

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"They fuck you up, your Mum and jazz..."

I enjoyed his poetry as a schoolboy, he was pretty unshirking about the fag end days of the British empire and the outdated class pre-occupations of Olde England.

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Also a fan of Larkin's poetry. I enjoy reading his jazz writing for the same reason as I enjoy Boris Vian's: they're both entertaining because they wrong so often, but write so well. They both make me chuckle, at least until I get so exasperated that I put the book down.

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Also a fan of Larkin's poetry. I enjoy reading his jazz writing for the same reason as I enjoy Boris Vian's: they're both entertaining because they wrong so often, but write so well. They both make me chuckle, at least until I get so exasperated that I put the book down.

Well ... if the book review in the opening post is anything to go by, Vian's jazz writings are much more valid. They may often be lopsided and biased and they are a sign of their times (and need to be seen in the contexts of the times, like MANY jazz writings need to) but at least they are witty and poignant in a progressive and clear-cut way and not as much a matter of "trying to grasp the subject matter at all" as in the case of what Larkin had to say about Oliver's book.

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I have no opinion on his poetry, but as a critic he could be very harsh. Enjoyed his reviews, though.

I wouldn't say "harsh" as much as really dense or drastically/smugly circumscribed.

Interesting that the calypso remark is Paul Oliver's, not Larkin's. As a more or less principled British leftist, what Oliver (at times and despite his many virtues as a writer on the blues) wanted the blues to be was a protest music. This led him down some primrose paths.

No, I read the calypso remark as Larkin's, it comes between two quotations and is of a peice with the rest of his review wherein he makes many cogent points re blues and blues fan orthadoxy, yet remains steadfastly clueless overall. Some of the comments maintain that he was really a blues fan after all, but that's hard to credit given this and his general tenor.

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The book itself isn't the most gripping read.. but contains some impressive work on the lineage of various blues standards (eg 44 Blues), and info on the intricacies of the policy game etc. The stuff Oliver wrote about the lack of 'protest' in the songs is admittedly somewhat dated (i would say shortsighted but I'm certain he was no more ignorant of the dangers involved in a black musician recording outright protest than anyone today)

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what I like about Larkin is that even when he describes something he hates, his description is often quite good - don't have it in front of me but one good example is his Archie Shepp review - perfectly draws a picture of Shepp's way of playing, even as he tells us why he finds it awful.

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The calypso remark reads as Larkin's surely?

Yes, I see that now. Still bloody obtuse in its apparent equation of vitality and topical reference -- a hallmark of calypso lyrics IIRC.

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what I like about Larkin is that even when he describes something he hates, his description is often quite good - don't have it in front of me but one good example is his Archie Shepp review - perfectly draws a picture of Shepp's way of playing, even as he tells us why he finds it awful.

This is refreshing as in today's day and age regarding listeners to inside/outside jazz - for the most part listeners stick with what they like and rarely venture to new territories. Maybe especially true with many of the contributors on jazz bulletin boards after arround 2002 when the novelty must have worn off. There was a time when this medium was new when listeners/participants were giving new music (to them) a shot. My impression these days is that is long since over. The listeners these days for the most part are stuck with what they like or know - too damn bad, really - if a musician or group of musicians are seen or thought to be "out" or "avant-garde", many will simply never listen to those musicians

never, ever, never

or we can talk about the aversion to European musicians by those who one would think would or could be open-minded to them - but rarely does that happen - as those musicians are not from their group of proven masters...

oh well

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what I like about Larkin is that even when he describes something he hates, his description is often quite good - don't have it in front of me but one good example is his Archie Shepp review - perfectly draws a picture of Shepp's way of playing, even as he tells us why he finds it awful.

This is refreshing as in today's day and age regarding listeners to inside/outside jazz - for the most part listeners stick with what they like and rarely venture to new territories. Maybe especially true with many of the contributors on jazz bulletin boards after arround 2002 when the novelty must have worn off. There was a time when this medium was new when listeners/participants were giving new music (to them) a shot. My impression these days is that is long since over. The listeners these days for the most part are stuck with what they like or know - too damn bad, really - if a musician or group of musicians are seen or thought to be "out" or "avant-garde", many will simply never listen to those musicians

never, ever, never

or we can talk about the aversion to European musicians by those who one would think would or could be open-minded to them - but rarely does that happen - as those musicians are not from their group of proven masters...

oh well

Speaking for myself, i consider myself to have pretty broad taste in jazz however i very rarely take risks these days. The main reason being that there's more 'must have' stuff on my wishlist and more coming out everyday than i'll ever get the time or money to check out: i'm on a tight budget and as much as i'd like to take a chance the fact is i've got a million sure fire hits lined up. The other thing is, as someone who's only really been a dedicated listener for the last 7 years or so there's 70-80 odd years of gold to play catchup on also.

Nutshell = lack of funds probably leads to people taking less chances on left field recommendations.

In terms of relcuctance to check out new releases, i think that some fans like the idea that the jazz story, for the most part, is at an end. It's kind of easier that way. I think that some people almost take it as an affront to the past that anything vital could be going on at the moment. It kind of requires reassessment, and in doing that some beloved periods could seem to hold less importance when placed in the newly larger story, especially in a story where things keep getting interesting as time goes on. I think some people prefer it that the story is all nicely wrapped up.

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I wouldn't say "harsh" as much as really dense or drastically/smugly circumscribed.

One again, Larry nails it.

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I remember picking up Larkin's book of jazz criticism years ago and looking through the index to read bits on the people I liked and not liking what I found I put the book back on the bookshelf. My tastes have changed in the intervening 20 years, so maybe should I pick it up again? Isn't it a bit old fogey?

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