Alyn Shipton

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Alyn Shipton (born 24 November 1953) is an English jazz author, presenter, critic, and jazz bassist.

Early life[edit]

Shipton became interested in jazz in his youth and formally studied cello, but also played double bass in a school jazz band. He played both cello and bass in the West Surrey Youth Orchestra, and played in the first performance of John Dankworth's "Tom Sawyer's Saturday" commissioned for the Farnham Festival. After winning an open scholarship to read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, he ran the university jazz club. During that time he played with many guests who appeared there, including George Melly. The trumpeter with Melly, John Chilton, dates Melly's decision to go on the road with the Feetwarmers to their appearance with Shipton in Oxford in 1973. At Oxford, Shipton also wrote for the student magazine "Isis" and directed plays, including Ben Jonson's "The Alchemist". He had a keen interest in visual arts and was one of the authors of the catalogue of paintings in the collection of St Edmund Hall.

Later life and career[edit]

On leaving university, Shipton became an editor at Macmillan Publishers, working on primary school books and teenage fiction. He also played bass in the New Iberia Stompers, subsequently joining Sammy Rimington's band and the group led by jazz traditionalist Ken Colyer. In the 1980s, he became the publisher of Grove's Dictionaries of Music. His own first book, a biography of Fats Waller was published in 1988. During the same period he moved to Oxford to manage the reference publishing at Blackwell Publishers, also establishing the NCC Blackwell computer publishing imprint with the National Computing Centre in Manchester. He began broadcasting on the Oxford local radio station Fox FM in 1989, going on to join BBC Radio 3 the same year with a series based on his Waller biography. For six years he was a presenter on the BBC World Service's Jazzmatazz, and was a regular contributor to (and then co-presenter of) the BBC Radio 3 series Impressions, which was mainly hosted by Brian Morton during its run from 1992 to 1998. In 2001 Shipton was named "Jazz Writer of the Year" at the British Jazz Awards.[1] From 1998 to 2001 he presented the late night programme Jazz Notes for Radio 3, going on to introduce many editions of the documentary strand Jazz File. From 2007 until 2012 he presented Jazz Library on BBC Radio 3, before taking over the long-running programme Jazz Record Requests in May from Geoffrey Smith.[2]

The author of biographies (in addition to Waller) of Bud Powell (co-author), Dizzy Gillespie, and Ian Carr, his New History of Jazz first appeared in 2001; a revised edition was published in 2007. Shipton was critical of Ken Burns′ 2000 Jazz documentary.[3] Shipton has also published biographies of Jimmy McHugh (2009), Cab Calloway (2010) and Harry Nilsson (2013). His Nilsson biography won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for pop biography and an ARSC Award for research in Pop Music. His most recent book is a collaboration with the jazz musician Chris Barber on Barber's autobiography. He is currently working with Billy J. Kramer on his memoirs.

Shipton has been an active musician throughout his career, working with the London Ragtime Orchestra (with whom he recorded two LPs), the big band Vile Bodies, Bill Greenow's bands Chansons and Rue Bechet, and he currently co-leads the Buck Clayton Legacy Band. The band's CD "Claytonia" recorded in concert at Sage, Gateshead, by BBC Radio 3 was released in 2013. Shipton has taught jazz history at several universities including Oxford Brookes, and City University, London. He is at present a lecturer in jazz history and a research fellow at the Royal Academy of Music, London.


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