James Read

As someone older and wiser once said to me as he handed over a cassette of Keith Jarrett’s album ‘Nude Ants’ there are many routes into jazz. So here’s a list, in no particular order of music and things which first aroused and cemented my interest.

1. There were some particular TV theme tunes which I noticed and enjoyed as a child, in particular, the Pink Panther TV cartoon theme by Henri Mancini, BBC TV’s Vision On ‘gallery’ theme ‘The Left Bank’ by the Noveltones and the music included in the TV adaptation of Schulz’s Charlie Brown by pianist Vince Guraldi.

2. The Stranglers EP ‘Old Codger’ featuring George Melly’s vocals but the track on this EP that really got me excited was their cover of ‘Walk on By’ with the extended Hammond organ work by Dave Greenfield.

3. The album Fragile by Yes. I plucked this off an HMV record rack in 1980 as I liked the sleeve artwork by Roger Dean. I had no idea what to expect from the music but the Bill Bruford and Chris Squire jams as well as Rick Wakeman’s Hammond organ fired my interest in sounds that were unfamiliar to me as a teenager.

4. Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic I discovered this in a school friend’s mum’s record collection and loved the piano intro to ‘Ricki Don’t Lose That Number’ but didn’t realise it was lifted from Horace Silver’s ‘Song For My Father’ until much later.

5. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks featuring the amazing bass player Richard Davis. As an art student, I used to listen to this on my Sony Walkman as I wandered around South Wales in the rain.

6. Joni Mitchel’s album Mingus, another one from my friend’s mum’s record collection, this was how I found out about Charles Mingus and Wayne Shorter and learned that drummers could use brushes as well as sticks.

7. Miles Davis, Star People, a track played on Humphrey Lyttleton’s BBC Radio 2 Monday evening jazz show in about 1982 stuck in my mind. I hadn’t realised jazz could sound like this. Where else could a school kid find out about Miles Davis in 1982?

8. The launch of Jazz FM in 1990. I was an art student in London at this time and lapped up Gilles Peterson’s and Jez Nelson’s programs. As I listened, the pleasure was mixed with mild anxiety as I wondered how long they could get away with playing such great music in the middle of the day.

9. The Penguin Guide to Jazz by Richard Cook and Brian Morton. I spent hours pouring over this book when I first got hold of it in 1993.

10. James Blood Ulmer in concert at Dingwalls London 1993. His trance-like guitar playing at close quarters was a revelation in its intensity.

11. Blue Note CD reissues of classic 1960s albums. In the mid-90s I filled my shelf with these reissues and discovered so many artists, Grant Green, Horace Silver, Donald Byrd, to name a few.

12. Replay Records, Southampton was a place l cycled across town to as a teenager, this used record shop was where I picked up jazz-infused King Crimson albums Earthbound and Islands as well as a fair number of Black Sabbath records!

My days are now split between family life, working with vulnerable adults in my local community in Oxford and pursuing my artistic interest in painting and collage.

Instagram @mrjamesread

Arnos Grove Station and Marine Iguana by James Read

Astral Travelling Since 1993