Richard Cook

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The Independent Online

No doubt modesty prevented Brian Morton from dwelling upon the masterpiece which he and Richard Cook [obituary, 1 September] created in The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, writes Christopher Hawtree.

The autumn morning when the first, 1992 edition of this 1,300-page volume arrived in my possession, all work stopped. Several hours' browsing went by in an instant, as have countless more, as their seductively erudite work grew to 1,800 double-columned pages with the eighth edition.

A book which sells itself is any publisher's dream, and this one is all the more remarkable because purchasers rarely jettison earlier copies, but keep them on the shelf as a record of what has been deleted but might yet be found. To call it a reference work is misleading; far from being dry as dust, it is a model of the way in which space need not prevent fact and opinion from forming a well-manicured thumbnail sketch wittily suffused with a wide knowledge of more than jazz (in all its forms).

It is as practical – ears sharp for poor remastering – as it is evocative – the seven-disc set of Miles Davis at the Plugged Nickel is described as "the Rosetta Stone of modern jazz: a monumental document written in five subtly and sometimes starkly different dialects but within which much of the music of the post-bop period has been defined and demarcated". Anybody who wants to write could learn much from this – and lament that the Plugged Nickel box has gone out of print.

Richard Cook made the anorak an item of haute couture.

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