Thursday, June 04, 2015

Brian Case's lovely little book about jazz, film and crime fiction

On the Snap: Three Decades of Snapshots from the World of Jazz, Film & Crime Fiction is a slim volume of reflections from Brian Case, whose speciality is writing about jazz, crime fiction and anything else he finds stirring. You could read it in an hour. Then you could read it again.

Whenever I sent a hack to interview somebody I used to ask them to make sure they included the little details they told  everyone in the office the minute they got back. A lot of the time they didn't. The transcript takes over and you lose some of that gossipy human interest. This has got lots of those details, the kind you tell the family. Jack Nicholson has got short legs. Dexter Gordon was six foot five. Michael Caine had liposuction to lose weight for "Shirley Valentine". I'm not sure I'd take all of it as gospel but that doesn't matter.

And at the back it's got three lists of things he likes. There are some films, some crime novels and twenty jazz albums. He's not trying to be definitive, not saying "these are the ones you've got to hear before you die" or anything similarly bombastic. He's honest about the fact that by the time he got to encounter the likes of Duke Ellington they were past their best. He stopped liking Miles Davis when he went electronic. He only likes Tom Waits because of one line. Case reminds me of Joe Bussard, the man who collects 78s of early jazz and blues. Both know when to say "there's nothing for me here". I find that liberating. It's Case's impatience with the commonplace that awakens you to his ear for the remarkable.


  1. Sold. Right up my street and now on my list.

  2. Sounds an ideal man for a WIYE gig..

  3. Thanks for such a great review, David. Sonia Case

  4. Thanks for this great review, David.
    Sonia Case

  5. Back in my 20s I found Brian Case's music journalism too dense and impenetrable. Didn't understand many of the references. Couldn't get into the rhythm. David's piece prompted me to find some of it again and, what do you know, now I do get it. I must have read this Tom Waits interviewback in 1976 but I wouldn't have appreciated its brilliance.

  6. Oops. Wrong link. That's a Fred Dellar piece. I meant this one.