Ed Starkey

The Golden Jonahs

Author House - ISBN: 1-4184-4933-4

A romance. A potboiler. All of the ladies are sensationally beautiful. They all feel ashamed at allowing their passions to be revealed-although the author generally gets them neatly married, one way or another.

The hero is man with a curse. He also plays Jazz music with all of the great names of his day. One or two characters emerge, to then have their say and again become a part of the backdrop. We are given a somewhat old-world language to read, and we know it is something the author finds perfect to serve what must be his own notion of love, truth, and even perhaps the American way of life.

Ed Starkey is a thorough romantic. His book is undemanding, and the tale is somehow familiar because it is all about a life we have been given from the silver screen, with all of the ups and downs that represent a plot and that Hollywood has been offering us for decades.

By Lawrence Brazier

George McKay

Circular Breathing

Duke University Press ISBN 0-8223-3573-5

The title could mean that the book is long-winded, but it is not! George McKay has assembled a vast amount of documentation to give us a history of Jazz in Britain. Jazz, and music various, related to protest. Meaning, of course, the Left!

The Left is the prerogative of the young, the young at heart, and, dare we suggest, artists and performers. At an early age the young sense with dismay a looming conformity and their place in what we are pleased to call The System and their ultimate, let us say "programmed," acceptance of the Establishment way.

Although we all go through youth, not many of us become artists or performers, and it must be obvious to us, the run-of-the-mill crowd, that our entertaining (they will hate that) heroes are simply not as we are. Their talent places them beyond the norm. It is possibly something to do with the right and left side of the brain thing. Whatever, they generally think differently, often have less need for systems and although it has been said that only a rich person can afford to be a Socialist-they tend to find the words freedom and liberal entirely compatible and easily interchangeable.

If what I suggest is true, then Mr Mckay's notion of some Jazz musicians being of the Left is perfectly understandable. It is simply in their nature.

I do not believe that most Jazz musicians consciously rebel, but I do believe that they are all likely to receive the "rebel" label from people who do not like or can't fathom Jazz (my mum, for example, is almost certainly convinced that "they are all on drugs"). There must be thousands of musicians who considered their music to be less a vehicle for protest as much as a way of making a living, and were too busy playing, or looking for gigs.

Nevertheless, this book is about those who did protest, those who understandably had axes to grind, those who were Socialists, joined the Communist Party and generally lent their creative impulses to causes of merit. Some went to extremes, one musician even making his an "un-misusable music...that couldn't be appropriated by the Right." Which could have meant un-listenable.

Free Jazz is dealt with to some extent in the book, possibly because the word free seemed to be just right for what the musicians were all about musically and politically, although much of the avant-garde was about breaking away from what could be loosely termed the Great American Songbook.

Unfortunately, the home of Communism spurned the playing of free improvisation. Thus one is confronted by the problem (did I say "problem"?) of democracy. What happens if you protest and nobody notices? What is the point of protesting if the Establishment permits it? Frustration is merely extended if one is, so to speak, patted on the head and indulged.

It was nice to be reminded that Joe Harriott was indeed one of the most intelligent men to have been involved with Jazz, and the like, on the British Jazz scene -- and here we have the crux of the book -- is it a British Jazz scene because it occurs in Britain, or because British players are involved? The questions are answered because Britain accommodated a large number of expatriate musicians who came from the colonies and related dominions. Thus the Brits themselves were, and are, not the only ones contributing to the scene.

A question looms large in George McKay's book: all of this very readable documentation may tell of the people who felt the need to use their visibility as entertainers to support a cause, but there is little about why there were causes that needed supporting? In other words, how did humanity get a screw loose?

Much struggle in the Jazz world is related to race and is an exigent factor, the ghost of which is still not laid. It seems that just about everyone in this world is prejudiced about something, and most people (the vast body of folk) are, at least subconsciously, colour prejudiced.

Colour prejudice is, as any sociologist will agree, rooted in fear. That "vast body of folk" live a life of controlled fear. It is built in! Something unavoidable! The psychologists among us have, apparently, failed to fully equate the common denominators thrust upon the human race by birth-the need to eat, the need to drink, and the need for protection against the elements, the need to sleep and, even, the need to breathe. But the word need is wrong and should be replaced with must. It is that must that goes against the grain (ask anyone still struggling through puberty). It irks, gets up our collective nose, and then frustrates to lead to anger and the search for someone to blame. The reply from musicians has been often oblique, often incomprehensible to many, but always provocative and seldom boring.

Thus, the human condition! Thus, this fascinating book! Highly recommended

By Lawrence Brazier

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