Not so Private Passions …

Four years ago, not so long after the final Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness, was published, I was invited to be a guest on the BBC Radio 3 programme, Private Passions – a sort of (mainly) classical version of Desert Island Discs, only, since this was to be broadcast alongside the London Jazz Festival, there was to be a somewhat higher jazz content than is often the case.

I was delighted to be asked [understatement!] and thoroughly enjoyed the process, from making the choice of music to be featured to the interview itself, which was conducted with little or no preamble or rehearsal, the presenter, Michael Berkeley, making me feel immediately at my ease. The pair of us sat in a relatively small studio space, listening together to the pieces as they were played on air, which meant that one’s immediate response was, well, immediate.

I wanted to choose music that meant something in particular to me, while being conscious of delivering a broad ranging selection I thought people might respond to, and which might include some pieces with which listeners might be less than familiar with – Jocelyn Pook’s Tango with Corrugated Iron, for instance, or James P. Johnson’s Victory March.

Here’s the full list …

Mean to Me  [Fred E. Ahlert and Roy Turk]
Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra inc. Lester Young (tenor sax)

Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) [Mendelssohn]
Maxim Dmitrievich Shostakovich  & Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra

Victory Stride [James P. Johnson]
Marin Alsop & The Concordia Orchestra

Shipbuilding [Elvis Costello]
Elvis Costello with Chet Baker (trumpet)

Cello Concerto No. 2 [Shostakovich]
Sol Gabetta with Marc Albrecht & Munich Philharmonic Orchestra

Tango with Corrugated Iron [Jocelyn Pook]
Electra Strings & Jocelyn Pook

Rhythm-a-ning [Thelonious Monk]
Thelonious Monk Trio

And, somewhere in there, I was asked to read my poem about Chet Baker, which, of course, I was more than happy to do.

The programme is now available to listen to for 29 days …

Annotated iPod Shuffle, April 2018

1  Saucer Eyes : Eric Dolphy

from Where? (1961) Dolphy (flute) w. Mal Waldron (p) Ron Carter (bs) Charlie Persip  (dr). Great,fluent flute from Dolphy and scintillating brushwork from Persip.


2 Slider : John Stewart

from The Day the River Sang (2006) one of Stewart’s final albums prior to his death two years later. The voice, even with some handy reverb, isn’t what it was, but it does take on a deep, bluesy feel that’s appropriate for this song about a wayward young woman, reminiscent in some ways of the sad and lovely Crazy [”I will drive you, Crazy”] from the 1971 album Lonesome Picker Rides Again. Some nice licks by Stewart himself on electric guitar, too.

The Day The River Sang

3 Milk Shake Stand : The Three Barons

from Still Stomping’ at the Savoy, a fine selection of Jazz & R&B tracks from the 50s & 60s, including Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Errol Garner, Art Pepper, Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, H-Bomb Ferguson, Joe Turner, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Little Esther and this track by the Three Barons, a doo-wop group who are still performing, in one guise or another, and will to travel to gigs up to ten miles from their base in Stamford, CT – well, you gotta slow down some time.


4 Shostakovich String Quartet No. 6 – Allegretto : Emerson Quartet

What can I say … ?

Shostakovich_ String Quartets [Disc 1]

5 Just One More Chance : Alex Welsh Band

Featuring Alex’s trumpet, more broad-toned than usual, on this BBC Sounds of Jazz broadcast from 1981, just a year before he died; Roy Crimmins is on trombone, back in the band after a long break, Al Gay on tenor, Fred Hunt at the piano.


6 Sandwood Down to Kyle : John Renbourn

from Live it Italy (2006) about which Renbourn had this to say …

 Anyway one place that still holds fond if blurred memories is Roma’s Folkstudio – a basement club that reminded me of the Cousins, only funkier. I’d go over and play there for a week or so, staying in a room down a little alley leading into the square of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The square at night was utterly beautiful and even the bare room had a certain charm. With the pleasure of good company and the wine from Sacrofano it was a productive time for me.

How this recording came to be made I honestly have no idea. To describe the p.a. in the Folkstudio as a curiosity would be charitable in the extreme. It wouldn’t have been out of place in Frankinstein’s laboratory. Somehow the benign boss Giancarlo Cesaroni engineered it on the quiet. And the result is documented evidence.

Live In Italy

7 As Tears Go By : Rolling Stones

The Jagger/Richards song their manager Andrew Loog Oldham passed on to Marianne Faithfull for her 1964 hit; Mick himself recorded it with the Stones a year later [sounding oddly like Marianne].



8 Right Moves : Josh Ritter

from The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007). Has a great chorus, which my daughter, Molly, and I sang along to heartily at his Kings Place gig a few years back.

The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

9 These Foolish Things : Thelonious Monk

Recorded in New York, on December 18th, 1952, with Gary Mapp (bs) & Max Roach (dr)

Thelonious Monk Trio

10 $1000 Dollar Wedding : Gram Parsons

from Parson’s second solo album, Grievous Angel (1974), with James Burton on guitar and Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals and close to keeping Gram in tune. I remember buying my copy for £1.00 from a student at the Stevenage school where I was teaching; she’d got it as a freebee at the Gary Glitter show at Stevenage Mecca the night before.

Grievous Angel

iPod Shuffle, September 2017

On what is, apparently, the first official day of Autumn, this is what my iPod came up with this morning, as I was walking to the Royal Free Hospital for a routine blood test …



  1. A Song For You : Dusty Springfield, from Something Special
  2. When Your Lover Has Gone : Ray Charles, from The Genius of Ray Charles
  3. What You Came Here to Do : Girlboy, from Late Bloomers
  4. Keep it to Yourself : Amy Rigby, from 18 Again
  5. A Bitter Mule : Me’Shell Ndegeocello, from Weather
  6. Prelude & Fugue No. 10 in C Minor : Keith Jarrett, from Shostakovich 24 Preludes & Fugues
  7. My Romance : Warne Marsh, from A Ballad Album
  8. Teachers : Leonard Cohen, from The Songs of Leonard Cohen
  9. Baby Took a Limo to Memphis : Guy Clarke, from Dublin Blues
  10. The Last Campaign Trilogy : John Stewart, from The Complete Phoenix Concerts
  11. Two Pianos : John Tilbury & Phillip Thomas, from Morton Feldman, Two Pianos & Other Pieces, 1953-1969
  12. Ad Lib Blues : Lester Young, from The President Plays



What I’ve Been Reading : January-February 2016

  • Prayers for the Stolen : Jennifer Clement
  • To The Lighthouse : Virginia Woolf
  • The Noise of Time : Julian Barnes
  • Ghettoside : Jill Leovy
  • A Hand Reached Down To Guide Me : David Gates
  • The Green Road : Anne Enright
  • Olive Kitteridge : Elizabeth Strout
  • Frank Auerbach, Speaking & Painting : Catherine Lampert
  • The Burgess Boys : Elizabeth Strout
  • Quicksand : Henning Mankel
  • The Troubled Man : Henning Mankel
  • Wonderland : Ace Atkins

First things (almost) first: I have to admit to blowing hot and cold about Julian Barnes’ fiction, but that notwithstanding I’ve always thought his various writings about art, painting in particular, were first rate. [Even sidling over to him one time at the Parliament Hill Farmers’ Market, while he was buying, if my memory serves me, a piece of lamb, to tell him how much I’d enjoyed his essay in the London Review of Books, on Bacon.] So, I set to reading The Noise of Time, his novel about Shostakovich, with some enthusiasm.

What a let down! For one thing, it’s hardly a novel at all, a novella at best, a skimpy selection of  interior monologues, designed not to show Shostakovich as the great composer he surely was (there’s little if any sense of the turmoil and  passion of his work) but concentrating instead on those occasions when he bowed in the face of overwhelming authority, doffing his cap instead of hurling it in the faces of Stalin and the rest.

Barnes claims to love Shostakovich’s music and to have lived with it for many years; why then this mealy-mouthed and mean-spirited rehash of what has been written about at greater length and with greater clarity previously?

Nice cover, though.


Henning Mankel, who died from cancer towards the end of last year, was a man who, when he espoused a cause, did so seriously, devoting much of his life – and wealth – to working in Africa, where, in addition to running a theatre he supported various AIDs organisations and charities, as well as, in 2010, showing his support for the Palestinian cause by very publicly joining the flotilla of ships heading for Gaza and as a result, along with eight other Swedish citizens, being arrested by the Israeli authorities and then deported.

I interviewed Mankel several times, in the course of making a documentary for BBC4 about his crime fiction, and couldn’t help but be impressed by his seriousness and the weight of intelligence and effort he brought to highlighting and attempting to cure the worst of what he saw as his country’s and the world’s wrongs.

Much of this is evident in Quicksand, subtitled What It Means To Be A Human Being, a collection of essays published after his death and highlighting, here, amongst other issues, his concerns over nuclear waste and the legacy it is leaving for future generations. Perhaps inevitably, though, the pieces which are the most affecting are those in which he addresses the inevitability of his approaching death, all  written with honesty and a lack of sentimentality.

I understand now, as I fight my battle with cancer, that I keep asking myself the same question (that I put to Rosa). How afraid am I? Do I also reject the fact that death is always standing in the wings, as a possibility, once a cancer diagnosis has been made?

I don’t know. But i think I try to be true to myself. No doubt I am afraid. High storm waves could come from nowhere at any moment and crash against my inner and outer coastlines.

I have tried to build up defences to ward off what scares me. If the worst should happen, if the cancerous tumours multiply and can’t be stopped, I shall die. There is nothing I can do apart from summoning up the same courage that is necessary to lead a decent life. One of the most important arguments for maintaining this dignity and trying to stay calm is that I’m not seventeen years old and doomed to die before I’ve even started living seriously. At sixty-six I have lived longer than most people in the world can even dream of doing. I have lived a long life, even if sixty-six is not as old as it once was.

McMinn and Cheese

A chip on my shoulder you can see from space

A blog about music by Richard Williams

Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise

Writers & writing: books, movies, art & music - the bits & pieces of a (retiring) writer's life

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Writers & writing: books, movies, art & music - the bits & pieces of a (retiring) writer's life


Writers & writing: books, movies, art & music - the bits & pieces of a (retiring) writer's life