Morton, Brian 1954–
Morton, Brian 1954–
Born 1954, in England.
Discographer, writer, editor, and broadcaster.
(Editor, with Pamela Collins) Contemporary Composers, St. James Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.
(Editor, with Richard Cook) The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP, and Cassette, Penguin (London, England), 1992, 9th edition published as The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, 2008.
(Editor) The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Contemporary Music, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1996.
(With Richard Cook) The Penguin Guide to Jazz on Compact Disc, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1996, seventh edition published as The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 2002.
Miles Davis, Haus (London, England), 2005.
Shostakovich: His Life and Music, Haus (London, England), 2007.
Prince: A Thief in the Temple, Canongate U.S. (New York, NY), 2007.
British-born discographer, writer, editor, and broadcaster Brian Morton has coauthored and coedited such works as Contemporary Composers, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP, and Cassette, and The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Contemporary Music. Undaunted by the sheer volume of musical artists in the world, Morton, with coeditor Pamela Collins, has taken on the task of recording for future generations the history of music. For Contemporary Composers, a St. James Press directory, each contributor is invited to include a brief personal statement. Although not all of the entrants made comments, a reviewer in Booklist considered those who did so to have offered "an invalu- able perspective" on their music. Functioning as an international directory, it is "a chronological list … of all known works classified in symphonic, chamber/instrumental, vocal/choral, operatic, and other categories." The reviewer asserted that "no other work of this scope exists." Brian E. Coutts, reviewing in Library Journal, called Contemporary Composers a "biographical survey" of more than 500 composers with a global perspective.
Working with coeditor Richard Cook, Morton compiled The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP, and Cassette, a companion volume to The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and Cassettes that focuses on classical music. More than 1,300 jazz musicians and groups are listed alphabetically by name. Entries for musicians include critical annotations, some individual recordings, and additional brief biographical information as well as lists of instruments played. A contributor to Booklist commented that "the work attempts to be a comprehensive … critical guide to currently available recorded jazz from its beginning in 1917 to the present." John Corbett, a reviewer in Downbeat, called the book "a giant compendium" which "throws together jazz and improvised music of all eras, styles, and value." He maintained that the volume "brings a depth of knowledge" to the music market "that extends into … neglected areas of the music."
Departing from the broad overview style of his first two works, Morton focuses on the works of seventy-four composers in The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Contemporary Music. R. Hartsook, reviewing the volume in Choice, commented that Morton "expects this book to aid enjoyment of contemporary compositions." Using links he calls "map references," Morton helps the reader find similar recordings and artists, and includes a brief bibliography for each. Edmund Neill, writing in The Times Educational Supplement, called The Blackwell Guide "far from just a dry catalogue of works." He asserted that Morton "conveys an immense amount of information while maintaining personal preferences," and described the volume as "beautifully presented and complete with a helpful glossary."
Morton has also written several biographies of musicians and composers, beginning with the 2005 biography titled Miles Davis. This study of one of jazz's greatest composers and musicians includes a discussion of the different styles that Davis progressed through in his playing and explores the major influences on Davis's career. Morton also examines the major recordings and themes of Davis's work, and examines the various transitional periods in his career. A California Bookwatch contributor called the book "a fine new study" of the musician and composer.
Shostakovich: His Life and Music focuses on the Soviet composer Demitri Shostakovich, who is considered by some to be the last great classical symphonist of the twentieth century. The author provides a comprehensive look at Shostakovich and his music, including his problems with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet government, and his prolific output of compositions later in his life. An Internet Bookwatch contributor called Shostakovich "a definitive account" and "a work of impressive scholarship."
In Prince: A Thief in the Temple, Morton focuses on the rock star's "music and the psychological and sociological conditions that informed it," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Morton traces the various influences on Prince's music, from black R&B to various pop styles. Further, Morton explores what the author sees as dichotomies in Prince's career, music, and mystique, such as his androgynous appearance and his biracial appeal. The Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the author's "analysis of each album is impressively nuanced and erudite."
Morton and Richard Cook have also continued to update The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP, and Cassette, which has subsequently been published as The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. In a review of the authors' eighth edition, Steven York wrote in Booklist: "Their detailed descriptions of albums, songs, and even artists' tone colors and interpretations within specific songs are testament to their expertise." The duo's seventh edition of The Penguin Guide to Jazz on Compact Disc, published as The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, includes information on more than 1,000 new recordings. Library Journal contributor Mirela Roncevic noted that the authors "write leisurely but with a sense of reverence."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 1, 1992 review of Contemporary Composers, pp. 686-87; June 1 & 15, 1993, review of The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP and Cassette, p. 1902; April 15, 2007, Steven York, review of The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, p. 68.
California Bookwatch, June, 2006, review of Miles Davis.
Choice, November, 1996, R. Hartsook, review of The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Contemporary Music, p. 434.
Downbeat, October, 1994, John Corbett, review of The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP and Cassette, p. 60.
Internet Bookwatch, May, 2007, review of Shostakovich: His Life and Music.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of Prince: A Thief in the Temple.
Library Journal, April 15, 1993, Brian E. Coutts, review of Contemporary Composers, pp. 57-58; November 15, 2004, Mirela Roncevic, review of The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, p. 86; February 1, 2007, Nadine Cohen-Baker, review of The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, 8th edition, p. 96.
Times Educational Supplement, May 3, 1996, Edmund Neill, review of The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Contemporary Music, p. R3.