A Glorious Celebration of Genius in The Art of Jazz

Alyn Shipton is a legendary author, musician, and BBC radio presenter who covered jazz for The Times of London for over two decades. In this extraordinary treasure, Shipton presents a century of jazz history through sheet music, album art, concert posters, and promotional photography, as well as many stand-alone works of fine art.


 

A Glorious Celebration of Genius in The Art of Jazz


Alyn Shipton is a legendary author, musician, and BBC radio presenter who covered jazz for The Times of London for over two decades. In this extraordinary treasure, Shipton presents a century of jazz history through sheet music, album art, concert posters, and promotional photography, as well as many stand-alone works of fine art. With authoritative commentary and over three hundred images, The Art of Jazz is a museum-quality collection to delight music and art lovers alike. The only thing missing is the soundtrack.

What inspired your lifelong devotion to jazz as a broadcaster and historian?

 My father got me listening to jazz as a toddler, with 78 rpm discs he brought back from serving with the RAF in the Pacific in WW2, and hearing American jazz as he worked alongside U.S. forces in Rangoon and Singapore. I started playing as a teenager, and have loved exploring the music ever since.

Which images from this spectacular book do you love most?

From the photos, it’s the early one of Aida Overton Walker, one of the stars of the ragtime and cakewalk era. Then there’s the magnificent pictures of Artie Shaw’s wartime band on an aircraft carrier and of Sonny Rollins on the Williamsburg Bridge. Of the fine artists, I love Picasso's cover for Stravinsky’s Ragtime, all drawn in a single line, like a jazz trumpet solo.

When did European musical instruments start arriving in North America?

We know that European music came to North America in the 1600s, in the form of psalms and hymns, but we also know that there were public concerts in Boston from the 1730s, using European classical instruments. Regimental bands also played the woodwind, brass and percussion instruments of the European tradition in the mid-18th century.

In human history, was there any other musical style that emerged from such a dramatic rendezvous of peoples and cultures?

Jazz is probably unique in this respect, as a musical style drawn primarily from African-American roots, but with interactions from so many other cultures. Some studies show that African-American brass bands were established in New Orleans in the 19th century. The differences in playing style tended to develop as jazz ideas came in after around 1914, in the big Syncopated orchestras (like James Reese Europe and Will Marion Cook) where African-influenced rhythms and blue note pitches were used.

How was jazz first received in Asia?

Jazz gained a foothold in Asia very early on. My great friend and mentor Buck Clayton took an American jazz band to Shanghai in the early 1930s with great success. It’s a matter of regret that, in the editorial process for the book, we weren’t able to reflect - among others - such great musical talents from Japan as Terumasa Hino and Toshiko Akiyoshi. 

Cleo Laine is still performing at age 93. Have you seen her show recently?

I haven’t seen Cleo for a couple of years, but when I last heard her, she was as impressive as ever. Her timing and delivery are immaculate and her technical assurance is still marvelous. A little earlier, we played opposite her with my band at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival in 2014. I loved her show. It was as good as anything I’d heard her do since I first experienced her music as a schoolboy in 1969!

You mention President Obama’s plug for two contemporary London musicians. What’s most exciting about the new London jazz scene? 

Musicians’ collectives (such as the SEED ensemble or the all-female Nerija group) have developed original music at a rapid pace, creating an audience for their music as they grew. Although COVID has restricted live playing, the club scene is getting re-established online. The EFG London Jazz Festival is running a whole series of events this November which will be internet and broadcasting based. That festival goes right into the heart of the young London scene. It is great to see it redefining and reinventing itself to keep musicians playing and keep audiences listening.

What is the outlook for 21st Century jazz musicians?

It’s tough for all musicians in all genres at present, as the pandemic caused working opportunities to be cancelled worldwide. In a recent conversation with Pelin Opcin, who directs the London Jazz Festival, she said: "The crisis has prompted us to develop the digital model far faster and more in depth than we would have done otherwise.” Even once the threat of the pandemic diminishes, I think the musical world will have changed irrevocably.

 

SPONSORED BY CHARLESBRIDGE
 

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?