Following on from Giant Steps, comes the second instalment in Kenny Mathieson’s series of jazz histories. Cookin’ examines the birth and development of two of the key jazz styles of the post-war era, hard bop and its related offshoot, soul jazz. Hard bop was the most exciting jazz style of its day, and remains at the core of the modern jazz mainstream even now.

It drew on the twin poles of bebop and the blues for its foundation, spiced up with gospel, Latin and … More

When all else fails, when our compass is broken, there is one thing some of us have come to rely on: music really can give us a sense of something like home. With It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track, legendary music critic Ian Penman reaches for a vanished moment in musical history when cultures collided and a certain kind of cross-generational and `cross-colour’ awareness was born. His cast of characters includes the Mods, James Brown, Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, John Fahey, Steely Dan and Prince – black artists who were innovators, and white musicians who copied them for the mainstream.

In `prose that glides and shimmies and pivots on risky metaphors, low puns and highbrow reference points’ (Brian Dillon, Frieze), … More

Born OTD in 1915, American jazz singer with a career spanning nearly thirty years, Eleanora Fagan AKA, Billie Holiday. Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz music & pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills

Billie Holiday, by Argentinian Carlos Sampayo and artist José Muñoz is a graphic memoir in the NBM Graphic biography series … More

Born OTD in 1949, American soul, jazz poet, musician, and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken-word performer, Gil Scott-Heron. Author Leslie Gordon Goffe takes a look at the up and down life of American singer Gil Scott-Heron, the so-called ‘Godfather of Rap’. This book also takes a look at Gil’s relatioship with his father, Jamaican footballer, Gillie Heron. The first black person to play professional football in the US as well as Scotland’s Celtic Football Club.

Available in store and online.  

Born OTD in 1922, American novelist and poet, Jack Kerouac. Kerouac is recognized for his method of spontaneous prose. Thematically, his work covers topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. “A young innocent, joins his hero Dean Moriarty, a traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat, on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American dream..”

A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac’s exhilarating novel swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, racing … More

Born OTD in 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon, AKA Nina Simone. Simone was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B and gospel. ‘From her raging, handwritten letters to late-night phone calls with David Bowie, this biography gets up close and personal with the tempestuous Nina Simone’

Drawing on glimpses into previously unseen diaries, rare interviews and childhood journals, and with the aid of her daughter, What … More

Born OTD in 1931, American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor, Toni Morrison. The majority of the narrative takes place in Harlem during the 1920s; however, as the pasts of the various characters are explored, the narrative extends back to the mid-19th-century American South. The novel deliberately mirrors the music of its title, with various characters “improvising” solo compositions that fit together to create a whole work. The tone of the novel also shifts with these compositions, from bluesy laments to up beat, sensual ragtime.

The novel also utilizes the call-and-response style of jazz music, allowing the characters to explore the same events from different … More

Lester Young fading away in a hotel room; Charles Mingus storming down the streets of New York on a too-small bicycle; Thelonius Monk creating his own private language on the piano… In eight poetically charged vignettes, Geoff Dyer skilfully evokes the embattled lives of the players who shaped modern jazz. He draws on photos and anecdotes, but music is the driving force of But Beautiful and Dyer brings it to life in luminescent and wildly metaphoric prose that mirrors the quirks, eccentricity, and brilliance of each musician’s style.

Available in store and online.

“I’ve been told that no one sings the word ‘hunger’ like I do. Or the word ‘love’.”Lady Sings the Blues is the inimitable autobiography of one of the greatest icons of the twentieth century. Born to a single mother in 1915 Baltimore, Billie Holiday had her first run-in with the law at aged 13. But Billie Holiday is no victim. Her memoir tells the story of her life spent in jazz, smoky Harlem clubs and packed-out concert halls, her love affairs, her wildly creative friends, her struggles with addiction and her adventures in love. Billie Holiday is a wise and aphoristic guide to the story of her unforgettable life.

Available in store and online.

Born OTD in 1928, Jamaican musician who was bandmaster at the Alpha Cottage School, and also a vibraphone virtuoso, recording two albums for Studio One, Lennie Hibbert. At the age of eight he began attending the Alpha School, where he joined the school band as a drummer. He worked as a live musician in jazz groups in the 1960s, and frequently worked with the Sound Dimension band, recording some of the best-known riddims for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd.

Behind Jamaica’s musical reverberation lies the unlikely story of a boarding school run by Roman Catholic nuns and a brass … More