Philip Larkin is widely acknowledged as one of the country’s greatest and best loved poets, a prolific and brilliantly creative writer whose poetry, fiction and non-fiction have been published and re-published all over the world.
However, there is a somewhat lesser known side to Larkin - his life-long and ardent passion for jazz. He was a regular jazz critic for the Telegraph newspaper from 1961 – 1971, and his musings on music contained the same sharp insight and literary flair as his better known writings.
As part of 2010’s Larkin25 celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of his death, Proper Records is releasing Larkin’s Jazz, a four-disc set that encompasses some of Larkin’s favourite recordings, accompanied by an extensive booklet featuring his incisive writing on the music and a cover illustration by the cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, whose only other album cover was the iconic image for Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Larkin was a vocal opponent of modernism across the arts, and the tracklisting on Larkin’s Jazz reflects this – from his early days discovering the music on the first disc entitled I Remember, I Remember we are treated to a wealth of classic Count Basie and Louis Armstrong; disc two, recounting Larkin’s time at Oxford university features Bix Beiderbecke, Billy Banks and Eddie Condon. The third disc, All What Jazz, takes its name from the collection of Larkin’s jazz reviews published in 1985 and takes in Sidney Bechet, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington, while the final disc, Minority Interest, profiles some of the records Larkin and his friends enjoyed in their informal listening sessions in Hull in the ‘70s and ‘80s, such as Earl Bostic, Jimmy Witherspoon and Ben Webster.
Larkin’s Jazz serves as an insight into the tastes of one of England’s most respected literary greats – he once wrote that “listening to new jazz records for an hour with a pint of gin and tonic is the best remedy for a day’s work I know,” - as well as an excellent introduction to some of the best music the 20th Century has to offer.
The album cover image is under copyright and
used with permission from AirMTM