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Patrick Skinner

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Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis
Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis
by Julian Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Semi Invisible Given Substance, 31 July 2013
Five stars for illuminating the life of this very private man, and for the sympathetic understanding of him and his slightly unusual string of relationships and fatherhoods. I have to knock one star off for too much projection of the writer himself and his considerable "analysis" of his subject's mind set. As another reviewer so succinctly says, this editor badly needs editing. Nevertheless, a valuable and vital book which will bring Norman Lewis to many more people's attention. What a life! How many of us would endure what he did, for a story or a book? And love all the hardship? A beacon for all of us who want to enjoy life to the full as we age.


Love...Always
Love...Always
Price: £20.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Max again, 23 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Love...Always (Audio CD)
I have reviewed other Maxine Sullivan CDs recorded in the last few years of her life, when she was singing better than at any other time. Here she is with a quartet, led by pianist/arranger/composer Dick Hyman, with Seldon Powell (tenor sax and flute), Major Hlolley (bass) and Mel Lewis (drums). The songs are standards, some not so much heard these days. the tempos vary, and Max handles them all with her customary feelings for the rhythm and the lyrics. I think this lady could swing anything - and she has to contend with one or two slightly concert-oriented Hyman arrangements, which is my reason for hesitating about giving the fifth star. When he does swing, Hyman is marvellous. Powell has a talented command of tenor and flute and largely curbs modern licks, bass and drums are unobtrusively supportive. Quiet, delicious, melodic jazz. But every time Max comes in at the right nano-second beat-wise a fifth star just has to be given. Thanks Max!


All done from memory
All done from memory
by Osbert Lancaster
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The man who loved - and laughed at - life, 23 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: All done from memory (Hardcover)
Osbert Lancaster would be known mainly to many people over the age of 50 for his pointed and funny "Pocket Cartoons" published most days on the front page of the Daily Express. He was much more than one of the greatest cartoonists of the day; he was also a superb artist, architectural commentator and illustrator, writer and stage designer. Indeed a man of many talents. A superb pot-pourri of his illustrative and artistic output is to be found in "Cartoons and Coronets", with biographical pieces about his life by James Knox, which is readily available. This book, "All Done from Memory" was first published in 1953. My copy is of a 1963 re-print and is not difficult to find on Amazon. It is autobiographical, with line drawings by the author, remembering his childhood in Edwardian upper-middle class London.

The lucid word pictures carry one along vividly as this witty genius of a man describes his early life - and as a bonus every few pages an evocative line drawing or cartoon completes the picture. Although he died relatively recently (in 1986), Lancaster seems an echo of a long bygone age, of style, wit and charm. As the hurrying modern world obliterated them, Osbert Lancaster stood out as a dandy, an eccentric and creative genius.


At Vine Sreet Live
At Vine Sreet Live
Offered by rbmbooks
Price: £17.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Max for Max, 23 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: At Vine Sreet Live (Audio CD)
In the several years before she died, Maxine Sullivan made a flurry of rercordings and all were essential listening. The five stars here are for her singing - a collectionf of 12 Standards and Show Tunes, seven of them with lyrics by Johhny Mercer, who could do little wrong in my book. The accompaniment is fairly good - not the quality of Miss sullivan's last live recorded concer with the Scott Hamilton quintet or better still the three studio-recorded albums for Stash Records with Keith Ingham's arrangements and backing group. When on some of those you hear the veteran ex-Glenn Miller tenor saxist Al Klink intro or solo, Max has a peer. Here, one of the four well known West Coast session men /jazzers Herman Riley plays OK tenor, but not with the feeling of a Klink, a Hamilton or a Webster. Most surprising track is Hoagy Carmichael's "The Old Music Master", which Max takes at a lower tempo than the composer's famous recording, but swings gently but irresistably - lovely bass playing here and throughout by Red Callender. Recorded in the Vine street Bar and Grill, Max announces each song and clearly enjoyed the whole event. What a lovely singer!


American Swinging In Paris
American Swinging In Paris
Price: £9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Reminder of when Jazz was great, 18 Mar. 2013
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These 78 rpm tracks are a joy - reminders of the hey day of jazz in the 1930s when American jazzmen suffering from the slings and arrows of racial prejudice in their home country flocked to Europe - notably to France, where their music was idolised and they were treated for what they were, great artistes. The most notable, perhaps, were tenor saxist Coleman Hawkins and multi-instrumentalist/arranger Benny Carter. On the first of these trscks, to their talents were added those of a Europeran jazz colossus Belgian gypsy guitarist Django Reindhart. Their sides of Honeysuckle Rose, Out of Nowehere, Sweet Georgia Brown and Crazy Rhythm are much re-issued classics and I have had them as 78s, LPs and CDs for many years. But the Willie Lewis sides are rarer, with their superb virtuoso arrangements by Carter for three saxes. He is also heard playing rich, powerful melodic trumpet, especially on Stardust. The man was a genius - alto saxist supreme, a jazz clarinettist as good as any and a master trumpeter, to say nothing of his compositions, arrangements and swing orchestras.


The Art of the Restaurateur
The Art of the Restaurateur
by Nicholas Lander
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.96

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but unexciting, 15 Jan. 2013
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I really meant to finish this book, I really did. But half way, I couldn't wade through any more, so skimmed the balance. Maybe something's wrong with me. It is well written, full of information and the subjects are, or ought to be, excitingly interesting. But I found it dull.
I think the fault lies with the premise on which the author has based the book. Having had a few years of being a restaurateur - he and his wife, the wine writing icon Jancis Robinson, bought the delightful Greek Street, Soho, property housing the long-established French restaurant "L'Escargot Bienvenu" in 1981, renovated it and ran it for seven years, when ill health forced him to sell it - he not only approaches the interviews with 20 internationally renowned restaurant owners as a fellow professional, but interpolates his own views on how it all should be done. Perhaps writing restaurant critiques for the Financial Times for 21 years coloured each article to something more akin to a business profile than one of a provider of food. Indeed, "The Business of being a Restaurateur" might be a more appropriate title.
And then, non or occasional habitués of high end eating places might know the their names, but not those of the owners. So it ought to be interesting to know the ins-and-outs of the people who made famous El Buli, Le Bernardin, Tribeca, Nobu and so forth. Mr Lander's accounts are patiently, competently presented, but I longed to know about the passion, the excitements, the pratfalls, the families, the heaven and heartbreak. Above all I wanted to know about the approach to food. Page followed page of solid text, broken only by occasional spare, rather dreary line drawings. I yearned for New York Times rather than Financial Times style. For a Ruth Reichl or a Jeffrey Steingarten to get under the skin so to speak.. But above all a book like this needs to create a feeling, an atmosphere and this means photographs, black and white for preference, of the people and the places they have created.
To try and be fair, I bought the Saturday FT and read Nicholas Lander's current review. It was OK, with a couple of suitable photos, but again more business orientated than foodie. A piece about Sushi on the opposite page by another writer was much more alive and enjoyable. So, I am not sure at whom this book is directed - the intending restaurateur, perhaps. I am not qualified to judge it on this basis. Maybe for readers interested in personalities - and here I do feel it falls short. Restaurateurs I have known, and I admit here and now that virtually to a man or woman they have been "middle to low end" on the cost-per-head-to-eat-there-scale, share one thing in common, they were in it because they loved food and feeding people.


The Complete Verve Studio Master Takes
The Complete Verve Studio Master Takes
Price: £64.30

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crackers, 3 Nov. 2012
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I have never had a set of CDs presented in a cracker tin, nor have I ever had to pull out the six discs inside like a string of sausages. I've had some accompanying booklets, Perfect Bound, that have come apart with constant use, but never one that disintegrated shortly after its first few openings. So you will gather the presentation of these six records is not to my liking. As one who believes that the 30s Teddy Wilson/Billie Holiday recordings were the pinnacle of all jazz performances on record, however good these are (and some of them are, very), there are bound to be let-downs. Consider the artistry of Wilson, Goodman, Eldridge, Webster, Hodges and the rthythm sections anchored by a young Cosy Cole mostly usiong brushes, and remember they were all originals and innovators - and that Holiday was one of them, a superb jazz musician.

Instrumentalists moved on in technique and what they played. Billie Holiday didn't change a lot. The young woman who sang
I Wished on the Moon on 2nd July 1935 was fully formed, whereas others like Ella Fitzgerald and Maxine Sullivan were not at a similar time in their careers. So here, a world-weary sounding Holiday, voice beginning to break up, sounds an anachronism with some of the accompaninists, who, of course, were moving onwards. Oscar Peterson sounds as if he ought to be down the corridor in another studio with Ella. Shavers is out of place too, frequently playing in poor taste, as he often did; lots of notes, no taste or finesse. Kessel, too, is not at ease. It is only when fellow 1930s originals Benny Carter and Ben Webster show that these recordings take off as complete works. Surpsisingly, Jimmy Rowles, to me, is great, with pointedly inserted two note chords and runs and deft interpolations, as well as most interesting solos. Harry Edison must also be mentioned in despathes.

For anyone coming to Billie Holiday anew I would advise working backwards, from her ultimate tapes and concert recordings, through the Verves, the Decca/Commodores to the Columbias. And, whatever reservations I have, you MUST have them all, including this cracker tinful. I thank the good Lord for CDs, because I would have worn out shellac or vinyl copies of I Wished on the Moon years ago.


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