Housman – jazzing it up

[Previously published on Shropshire Blues]

When I was putting together an article about Betjeman’s not-very-Housman piece ‘A Shropshire Lad’ and the setting by Jim Parker, I came in passing upon a reference to an album by Jacqui Dankworth and New Perspectives that includes five Housman settings.

While on this page I tend to focus on my own settings of Housman’s verse, I also referenced some settings by ‘real’ composers like Butterworth and Vaughan Williams, and mentioned that I was unaware of other ‘folkie’ versions. I subsequently spent a lot of time talking about Mike Raven’s settings as recorded with Joan Mills, but I hadn’t even thought about the possibility of a jazz setting.

piper

Roland Kirk gigging at Powis Castle*

The settings on the album are actually each by a different composer: John Williams (the Shropshire saxophonist, not the guitarist or the film composer), John Dankworth (the singer’s father), Patrick Gowers, Andrea Vicari, and Dick Walter. More like the sort of stuff her mother Cleo Laine has done from time to time, listening to some samples. It also includes some more ‘traditional’ jazz fare like On Green Dolphin Street and Creole Love Call, as well as a version of Villa-Lobos’ Bach-ish Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5.

I quite like it, but a post on the folkie forum mudcat.org refers to the album as ‘very difficult’ and compares it to the music of a jazz composer ‘who wrote music for T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”‘. I’m not familiar with any such setting, and wonder whether he might actually have been thinking of Stan Tracey’s ‘Under Milk Wood’?  But I’m not a jazz buff, and the fact that I can’t find a reference to such an Eliot setting by no means proves that it never existed.

David Harley

*OK. You’re right. It isn’t.

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About David Harley

Computer Security Author/Editor; Independent Antimalware Researcher; CEO at Small Blue-Green World; Senior Research Fellow at ESET.
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