All What Jazz. A Record Diary 1961-1971

December 3, 2020
All What Jazz. A Record Diary 1961-1971

When Philip Larkin, already well known for his poetry, beganreviewing jazz for a leading London newspaper in 1961, he rapidlybuilt himself a new and considerable reputation. A collection ofthese writings, which constituted a highly readable diary of therecord scene between 1961 and 1968, was first published in 1970.This new edition contains the whole of Larkin's output on thesubject from 1961 to 1971, and a discography, revised for anAmerican audience.The pieces are prefaced by a provocative, semiautobiographicalintroduction in which Larkin recounts the difficulties heexperienced in reconciling himself to post-World War II jazz, andhow he finally came to see that mode in relation totwentieth-century art in general. He finds in the history of jazz"a capsule history of all arts—the generation from tribal function,the efflorescence into public and conscious entertainment, and thedegeneration into private and subsidized absurdity."Of his commentaries on a multitude of artists from every period ofjazz history, Larkin writes: "I tried in writing them to be fairand conscientious, and there were many times when I substituted'challenging' for 'insolent,' 'adventurous' for 'excruciating/ and'colourful' for 'viciously absurd' in a thoroughly professionalmanner. Although my critical principle has been Eddie Condon's 'Asit enters the ear, does it come in like broken glass or does itcome in like honey?' I've generally remembered that mine was notthe only ear in the world. Above all, I hope they suggest I lovejazz."Readers of Philip Larkin's poetry and his acclaimed collection ofmiscellaneous prose pieces, Required Writing (1983), as well asjazz aficionados previously unfamiliar with Larkin's work, willwelcome this acute and lively volume.