Alyn Shipton read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford
He also oversaw books in all areas from André Previn’s Guide to Music for children to the Grove Handbooks in Musicology, as well as the Man and Music series, published in association with Granada TV. He later moved to Blackwell Publishers in Oxford, where he initiated their guides to recorded music, in areas from blues and country to the contemporary classical repertoire. He later studied for his PhD in music at Oxford Brookes University.
After beginning his broadcasting career in local radio, he joined BBC Radio 3 in 1989, and has presented several series for the station, including the contemporary strand Impressions (with Brian Morton), the nightly Jazz Notes magazine, the documentary series Jazz File, and Jazz Library (over 100 episodes of which remain in perpetuity as podcasts on BBC Sounds). For his six years on the BBC World Service programme Jazzmatazz, during which he interviewed over 200 of the world’s leading musicians, he was awarded the 2010 Parliamentary Award as Jazz Broadcaster of the Year. He also won the Marian McPartland / Willis Conover Award for lifetime achievement in jazz broadcasting from the Jazz Journalists’ Association in New York.
Alyn has also presented and researched features and documentaries on other areas of music for BBC Radio, on subjects as different as the history of music publishing; the relationship between Haydn and Admiral Lord Nelson; the operatic collaboration between Purcell and Dryden; Alma Rose and the Auschwitz women’s orchestra, the role of bells in European cultural life, and the gypsy music of Django Reinhardt and his circle. He later served as executive producer for Radio 3’s Sunday Morning classical programme for seven years and for the Jazz Now live concert series until 2019.
For twenty years he was jazz critic of The Times, and now writes and reviews for Jazzwise magazine. Alyn’s books on jazz and popular music have garnered several commendations, notably for his biography of Dizzy Gillespie and his New History of Jazz, which both won Association of Recorded Sound Collections awards for outstanding research. His biography of the singer Harry Nilsson won the ASCAP Virgil Thomson / Deems Taylor Award for Excellence in Pop Music Research in 2014. He has written and published several other musicians’ biographies. His book The Art of Jazz, an illustrated study of the relationship between visual arts and jazz, was published in 2020, and On Jazz – A Personal Journey appeared in 2022.
A bass player since his schooldays, Alyn has performed and recorded with numerous bands, including a long association with trumpeter Ken Colyer, tours with American swing stars such as Bud Freeman, Herbie Hall and Don Ewell and, since 2011, co-leading the Buck Clayton Legacy Band, playing music bequeathed to him by the great swing trumpeter. His New Orleans Friends, founded in 2019, plays the traditional repertoire associated with the clarinetist George Lewis.
Image: Fundación Juan March, Madrid