Brian Morton: smart and passionate writing

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I have been an avid reader of the jazz writing of Brian Morton for the past 15 years and lately I thought it was about time to reach out and say thank you. Thanks to Brian for the brilliantly written, sometimes funny and always illuminating reviews. His writings (and those of the late Richard Cook) have been my gateway to jazz, first to the classics, and later to the immense body of more recent music. I may or may not like records suggested but I always appreciate the insightful take on music. With so much information out there on the net, Brian’s work stands out as fresh, intellectually stimulating and original…

I bought my first Penguin Guide to Jazz (Ed. 6) in 2003 while studying in Paris. I recall being slightly intimidated by the posh library in the Marais where I finally found the book. It seemed a major investment at the time and I was so nervous about ruining the book that I asked for something to carry it in. I see myself happily riding back home by metro with my treasure in a huge cardboard box. That, my bike and the free access to the CD collection of Paris libraries laid the foundations of my jazz library. A friend’s laptop was unwillingly sacrificed in the process as it collapsed after I burnt more than 300 CDs on it.

Edition n.9 of the guide came several years later as a gift from my wife. By then I was calling the guide the “Bible”. It’s a book you can constantly to back to for inspiration; sometimes, if you listen to the right album at the right time, for revelation.

I later bought Ed. 3 second hand and recently I could not avoid buying the 1000 records version. I found the last part on recent recordings extremely interesting.

Like many I moved on from CD to streaming and I find the experience both exhilarating and frustrating. I recall chasing down an album for months in my youth, without money to spend and living in a small town my only option was to dig out old vinyls from the collection of my friends’ fathers (mostly rock and blues at the time), to be passed on to cassettes. Then I started buying CDs as well and of course I listened to them very carefully given the investment involved.

Now, in the age of hi-res streaming platforms we get a lot and immediately. It’s hard to focus and enjoy the music. The possibilities are endless and that’s both a curse and blessing.

All this to say that I found a proven method to keep enjoying my music, listening to whole records and not jumping around for more. And that’s relying on solid reviews like Brian’s, reaching out for the “Bible” or on the internet. Smart and passionate writing puts me in the right state of mind, keeps out the “noise” and it has a soothing effect: most of the times it is a very rewarding experience.

So, again, a big thank you to Brian. I look forward to many more years of his jazz writing.
Bruno P., Madrid