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Book Review: Flying High, A Jazz Life and Beyond by Peter King

Flying High, A Jazz Life and Beyond, by Peter King (Northway Books, Book Review by Stephen Keogh)

Peter King has written an account of himself which is not only compelling, but touching in its honesty and openness. In much the same way as he plays a solo he gives you everything, in detail.

Another great master, Louis Stewart, once said about King: “I was always amazed that someone who seemed beset by so many problems was always able to stand up and play so much.”

Peter cannot help but give his all when he plays. This book is filled with the wisdom of a true master, and should be an obligatory read on the curriculum of all music schools and colleges. It is full of insights into the stuff that cannot be taught in a conservatoire. It describes the dedication and devotion needed to attain the level of playing that few manage to get to. It is a must for anyone seriously engaged with improvised music, whether it be jazz or any other musical category.

There are many stories of the road (on tour), which are by turns dramatic, heart breaking and hilarious. The descriptions of the things that occur on the way to gigs, the amazing coincidences and serendipitous happenings, some of which if they were part of a movie script wouldn’t be believable. The meetings and encounters with musical legends, film stars and personalities of all types. There is really even too much here for just one movie.

Peter’s honest and candid description of his battle with drugs, the devastating and destructive effects that they had on his life, and his eventual triumph over them should both resonate with and inspire many people who are battling addictions of all kinds.

The book should be available in public libraries and rehabilitation centres everywhere as it describes the before, during and after. Peter should be regarded as a national treasure. Hopefully with the release of this book, more people inside and outside of the UK will become of aware of that. It’s very important that the younger musicians in the UK are conscious of just how great he actually is.

Years ago during a conversation about how difficult it was becoming to get work, Art Farmer said “Peter King? That guy should be working wherever, whenever and with who ever he wants”.

Having known and played with Peter for over 20 years, when reading this book I could hear his voice telling me these stories. He has captured himself on paper and the book really feels as though it is him sitting there talking to you.
Peter King has a great story to tell, it is the story of a survivor. It’s a real slice of life, his life, and a big one at that.

-Flying High will be published on April 6th and is available by pre-order from Northway Books.

-Peter King will be talking to Ian Shaw in the upstairs bar of Ronnie Scott’s om Wednesday April 6th at 6pm.

-Peter King will talk about the book and sign copies in the Gallery at Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, on April 7th at 6.30pm. Pre-booking advised: events@foyles.co.uk -Peter King will be at the 606 Club on April 11th.

-Stephen Keogh is appearing this week with Charles McPherson at the Pizza Express (it was Saturday’s gig of the week in The Independent. )

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