Kind Of Green is not so much a book as a random pile of colourful jumble which you dip into and trust to your luck. It’s pictorially repetitious and typographically cluttered. Although fanatical about jazz, its author is over-enthusiastic and non-directional in his deployment of resources.
The raw material, apart from effusive recollection, is a store of photographs taken by Irishman Martin Connolly at jazz events covered between 1986 and 1990 by his brother Jim, then London correspondent for JazzNews International, Ireland’s first jazz magazine. Jim checked out events in the capital, Holland and Belfast.
Jim was a teacher and part-time journalist; Martin is now a professor of literature at Tsurumi University, Yokohama. Sadly, Martin is not an editor, otherwise his might have been a more readable and informative book. Chronicling one’s passion can be tedious for others unless there’s a strong context that might constitute additional and useful shared knowledge. Jazz photography is ferociously competitive.
Instead, the book, with its subtitle, resembles a fanzine collage of bits and bobs, amateur (and sometimes amateurish) photographs leavened by reasonably good professional ones, newsprint cuttings, biographical/autobiographical musing, and breathless rather than deathless prose. Some of the “legends” are less than legendary, by anyone’s reckoning.
A few examples: on facing pages – there’s neither index nor page numbering – are three almost identical pictures of George Benson, “the master at work” and, a few pages later, three of Jan Akkerman (oh – and three of John Scofield and four of John McLaughlin); an out-of-focus whole-page pic of Dizzy Gillespie smoking a cigar; 11 (!) pics of a 1990 Miles Davis band at the same gig, with more elsewhere; and all over the place a text that’s often gushing, inconsequential and bordering on the throwaway, as in this from roughly three-quarters of the way through: “Of course, by 1990, JazzNews International, as far as I can ascertain (my italics), was no longer being published.” More assiduous research might have reduced the level of uncertainty.
This is a shame, because the magazine and its editor, Dara Ó Lochlainn, are worth writing about. Connolly also mentions – and photographs – Solly Lipsitz (“Mr Jazz”), who ran Atlantic Records in Belfast, bracketing him as the northern paradigm with Dublin’s Ó Lochlainn as twin creators of an Irish interest in jazz and the mediators who brought international acts to the island.
The Connollys were from Belfast. Jim died in 2022, aged 64. While covering for JNI, he not only attended gigs but also got to know musicians – as did Martin, snapping away merrily and indulging a joint love of the music.
It’s tough having to take a pop at such enthusiasm, but unless an author marshals his resources, jettisons the dross and the below-par, and adopts some kind of intelligible format in both narrative and aesthetic, the reader will switch off. And that’s from a former newspaperman (me) who regularly witnessed an editor ripping up any print that was not sharp, professional, and guaranteed to grip and hold the reader’s attention. There’s an illustrated book here trying to escape from an undifferentiated hotchpotch of words and pictures. And no-one should under-estimate the art of book design. All that said, the brothers got to see and hear a lot of great musicians in a relatively short period.
Kind Of Green: Jazz Legends From ’86 – ’90 Through An Irish Lens, by Martin Connolly. Snow Child Press, pb, appx 55 pages (no numbers), ISBN: 978-1-911100-20-1. No price given.