Friday, 12 May 2017

Radio Review: 12 May

A big name – and a big decision

Written by Louis Barfe
The broadcast media are full of politics at the moment, but there seems to be precious little insight into what’s going on. Over here, one side announces an idea, the other side says it’s a terrible idea, and the BBC asks UKIP for their opinion despite them having one MP fewer than the Green Party (ie, none). Over there, Trump says something and Louis-Barfe-colour-176everybody rocks back and forth sobbing.

To grasp the present, it helps to understand the past, so Misha Glenny’s new Radio 4 series The Invention of the USA (Wednesdays, 11am) is welcome. It helps, for instance, to realise, as pointed out by Joe Queenan, that Washington was chosen as the US capital as an uneasy compromise between north and south.

Also, to understand that the Constitution was settled mostly by ‘rich men of average intelligence’ (in the words of academic Kathleen Burk) to protect their own interests. Thus freedom was not universal for a long time. Some will argue it still isn’t. I await Glenny’s next accessible but rigorous half-hour with interest.

Meanwhile, on Jazz FM on bank holiday Monday, I listened gleefully to the singer Laura Mvula introducing Forever Ella, a countdown of Ella Fitzgerald recordings chosen by listeners to mark what would have been the great lady’s 100th birthday. I was delighted to hear her roaring version of Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca scoring highly, but was baffled by one of the other entries.

Obviously Mack the Knife had to be in there, but instead of the 1960 Berlin live recording, where Fitzgerald famously forgot the words but carried on, we heard a version with the Duke Ellington band. As an Ellingtonian, I’m not complaining, but the Berlin recording is the definitive one. Did someone hoik the wrong CD out of the library? I think we should be told.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email: 

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