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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragic (in kind of a good way)
Neither of the other two reviewers (so far) have got this book right. Larkin did not 'hate jazz as we know it'; neither does his 'critique of modernism' have unquestionable validity. I'm going to patronise Larkin and call him a Case; the case of Larkin needs to be looked at, because here is a major poet whose greatness is partly about being narrow and resentful and...
Published on 8 Mar 2007 by lexo1941

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5 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Larkin hates jazz - beautifully
Don't be fooled by Larkin's backpage puff: 'I hope they (the reviews in the collection) suggest I love jazz'. His introduction to this compendium is little more than a sustained diatribe against not only modern jazz, but modernism in general. Larkin actually hates jazz as we know it. Everything in this book was first published in the Daily Telegraph, and conforms to its...
Published on 22 Jan 2002 by djsh2000


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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragic (in kind of a good way), 8 Mar 2007
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lexo1941 (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: All What Jazz: A Record Diary, 1961 - 1971 (Paperback)
Neither of the other two reviewers (so far) have got this book right. Larkin did not 'hate jazz as we know it'; neither does his 'critique of modernism' have unquestionable validity. I'm going to patronise Larkin and call him a Case; the case of Larkin needs to be looked at, because here is a major poet whose greatness is partly about being narrow and resentful and defensive, and that's reflected in his record reviews too.

I first read this book in my teens; a kindly aunt heard that I was interested in jazz (I play guitar) and bought it for me. For years, this was my guide to what was good and what wasn't. I could tell even then that Larkin had strong likes and dislikes, and that a lot of the stuff he clearly hated sounded like I might enjoy it. (Reviewers who go on record about how much they hate the item under review should bear in mind that somebody out there will always think 'Hey, if that idiot hated it that much it must be pretty good.') Nobody reading this book could deny that Larkin had enormous respect for early modernists like Parker and Powell, even if you get the impression that he didn't love their music. This book sent me to that music, and I love it now.

His enthusiasm for early jazz is, it has to be said, informed and precise and infectious, in that it makes you want to listen to the musicians Larkin clearly loved (he basically had a problem with anything made after 1945 or so). His explicit dislike and disapproval of the New Thing is most focused in his hatred for the music of John Coltrane, and yet while I love Coltrane's music and think that Larkin was missing out, Larkin is always most articulate when he's explaining why he doesn't like it. Larkin clearly enjoyed jazz as a respite, as a joyful escape, a happy place. Little wonder that Coltrane's deeply serious and engaged music did nothing for him, and no surprise that he had more time (if not very much more) for the sunnier music of Ornette Coleman.

I would not be at all surprised to learn that Larkin had difficulty taking black people's art seriously if it wasn't four-squarely entertaining; his racist opinions in letters and so on have been documented elsewhere. But he was not just another middle-class white guy; he was extremely intelligent and had many demons. The story told in the chronological ordering of 'All What Jazz' is ultimately a tragic one. It's the story of jazz outgrowing Larkin's patronage of it, to the point where he came to feel that it wasn't speaking to him anymore, and since there were few art forms that he had loved more, it must have come to him as a terrible betrayal. This book is proof that a 'tin ear' doesn't have to come from insensitivity to the beauty of music as such, but can also be acquired, slowly and painfully, when you begin to suspect that the people making the music that you love do not want to make it for you anymore. Larkin wasn't religious and could hardly have been attracted to something as violent and devotional as Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' or 'Ascension'. He wanted to jazz to go on being the music he'd been young to. That it couldn't do that was its glory and our benefit, but his personal tragedy.

In the meantime, the records of Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Cecil Taylor and so on are still there, untouched by Larkin's lack of sympathy, always ready to be played. Celebrate them, and read this book anyway, because when Larkin loved a record he wrote better about music than a corporate shill like Stanley Crouch has ever managed.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic justice, 4 July 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: All What Jazz: A Record Diary, 1961 - 1971 (Paperback)
This is a classic, which should be on the shelves of anyone wanting to understand more, not only about jazz, but also how attitudes have changed since that joyful music first burst on the scene. The bulk of the book is made up of the articles Larkin wrote reviewing new jazz releases, many of which were of recordings made before the war and newly available on vinyl as opposed to shellac. This would be indispensable on its own, but it is prefaced by an introduction setting out why in his opinion the tension between an artist and his audience had slackened, to the detriment of art (be that music, graphic art or literature).
So don't be dissuaded from buying this in the mistaken belief that it was written by someone stuck in a time warp, because that's not the case. Indeed, developments over the intervening period (potted sharks, unmade beds, et al) have served only to underline the validity of Larkin's critique of modernism. The attempt to dismiss a reasoned critique as a "sustained diatribe" merely serves to demonstrate the power of Larkin's argument.
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5 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Larkin hates jazz - beautifully, 22 Jan 2002
This review is from: All What Jazz: A Record Diary, 1961 - 1971 (Paperback)
Don't be fooled by Larkin's backpage puff: 'I hope they (the reviews in the collection) suggest I love jazz'. His introduction to this compendium is little more than a sustained diatribe against not only modern jazz, but modernism in general. Larkin actually hates jazz as we know it. Everything in this book was first published in the Daily Telegraph, and conforms to its tory ethic - Larkin understands little that doesn't relate to the 1930's 'white' bands with which he grew up, and can only evince a bemused reactionary mistrust for everything that jazz later evolved into. Carried over from this is a persistent urge to demarcate 'white' and 'negro' music which makes for painful reading whenever he attempts to discuss jazz roots, or blues. The blessing is that he is entirely aware of his own musical prejudices, and the book is full of painstaking attempts at objective evaluation which are priceless for their vague, poetic neutrality. There is nothing much for the jazz historian here, but the Larkin fan will find the book insightful, and will appreciate its effortlessly majestic style.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, 21 Jan 2013
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This review is from: All What Jazz: A Record Diary, 1961 - 1971 (Paperback)
The recipient of this book appeared to be pleased with it. It arrived promptly and was well packaged. I did not read it so I cannot make any further comments.
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All What Jazz: A Record Diary, 1961 - 1971
All What Jazz: A Record Diary, 1961 - 1971 by Philip Larkin (Paperback - 10 Jun 1985)
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