Thursday 17 November 2011

A Belief in Mischief - #4

A Belief in Mischief is the new edition of Your Heart Out which can be downloaded here as a pdf, free for all. It started out as a meditation on sacred texts, and ended up as a celebration of irregulars, visionaries, mischief makers, and people who just don't get written about enough. Among the 'sacred texts' mentioned is Val Wilmer's Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This: My Life in the Jazz World. I've written before about Val and this remarkable book, and the great thing is that since then it's a book I've returned to many times, making new connections, often realising rather late in the day that something I am newly excited about is something Val had written about and experienced first hand.
I love how the book starts with the 12-year-old Val walking into the Swing Shop, in Streatham, south London, asking if they have any jazz records. This pivotal moment is the catalyst for a very personal revolution, and the way that jazz and blues music shaped Val's life is put across really powerfully. Now, I hope, we recognise her as an incredibly important photographer and writer, and one of the journalistic highlights of the past year has been Val's illustrated essay for The Wire on Fela in London.
Val has popped up in the back pages of YHO a number of times, particularly in the Enlightenment! edition. In the A Belief in Mischief issue she is mentioned specifically because her book was a huge factor in getting me to listen to blues music. She makes the blues seem warm, human and alive rather than the more typical journalistic approach where the blues becomes shorthand for some dreary, dusty authenticity. And this is the way I like the blues ...

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