Thursday, 20 June 2013

Slow train coming... Red Groove by Chris Searle, new from Five Leaves

Somehow Red Groove slipped from last year, and has only now appeared. It happens sometimes. Chris's book is published in association with the Morning Star, where the material collected here first appeared - reviews of records (as we used to call them) and live performances. Chris is the Star's jazz reviewer and this collection includes about 100 pieces selected from fifteen years of jazz reviews.
As you would expect, the reviews are political, but mostly they are reviews and politics comes in where relevant - but with jazz from around the world that is often the case. There is not a bad review here - that is on purpose. Chris reviews to promote the artists, the records and their music, not out of sycophancy but as a way of giving people airtime, or space in the paper. He aims to promote the best. For the regular jazz listener there is much here to remind him or her what he/she has forgotten, for the less regular jazz listener the book is a vade mecum or buying list.
It was fun editing the book because each of the article was meant to be read on the day, not conceived as sitting alongside other reviews, so we had to get rid of a lot of heartbeats and confreres and various other writing tics that only became apparent when the articles were collected.
The book is introduced by Robert Wyatt and has a great photograph of Joe McPhee on the cover. Further colour photos, of Norma Winstone, Sun Ra and the late Niels-Henning Ostred Pederson are included, as well as some black and whites.
For me, the most exciting part of the book was being able to publish something by Chris Searle. I've followed Chris's work from his days in Stepney Words (described also in our book Everything Happens in Cable Street) through to his current writing in Race and Class. People might remember him as the teacher who was sacked for publishing his school students' poetry - this led to a student strike and Chris's eventual reinstatement by the then Minister of Education, one Margaret Thatcher. I wonder what happened to her. Chris has also published books of his own poetry, books about Granada (he knew Maurice Bishop and the other leaders of the New Jewel Movement) and cricket. This is his second book of jazz writing, the first being Forward Groove, published by the jazz specialists, Northway Books.
The two chapters I liked best in Red Groove were inspired by a fellow Star supporter Chris met on a train, who suggested an artists to write about, and a chance meeting with a cleaner from one of his old schools who suggested another jazz singer to review.
Chris loves his jazz. If you are by any chance reading this in time, Chris will be appearing at Lowdham Book Festival on 22nd June. He is available for gigs elsewhere, to talk about jazz, as is our other recent jazz writer, Peter Vacher, who will be at Lowdham on June 29.

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