About and Contact

matt dream ave best photo

The author, Barnes Common, London. Photo by Paul Kingsley

Named after Whitney Balliett’s famous description of jazz and also the series of Channel Four music documentaries commissioned by my father Michael back in the 1980s, this website features writing on everything jazz-related, from acoustic jazz to fusion, occasionally stopping off at avant-garde, blues and soul/funk/R’n’B.

You’ll find gig reviews (London venues unless otherwise stated), book/album/DVD reviews, obituaries, general musings and the Rescued From The Vaults feature looking at underrated gems from down the years.

I’m a writer, musician and record executive. My writing has featured in many publications including Jazzwise, Classic Pop, Uncut, MOJO, The Guardian and London Jazz News. I have another website dedicated to the music and culture of the 1980s: movingtheriver.com

I’m the author of ‘Level 42: Every Album, Every Song‘, the first indepth study of the jazz/funk/pop supergroup’s prestigious catalogue. I’m currently working on a book about the catalogue of British guitar legend John McLaughlin, due out in summer 2023, and I write the ‘Forget Me Not’ column for Classic Pop magazine.

I have been Jazz FM’s Web Editor and Universal Music’s Jazz Catalogue Manager, looking after the fabled jazz output on the Blue Note, Impulse, Verve, ECM, Concord (Milestone, Prestige etc.), Decca, Virgin, Polydor, MCA and EMI labels.

I won the inaugural Jazzwise Write Stuff award for new jazz writing in 2003 and was Music Adviser on Mike Dibb’s Channel Four documentary ‘Keith Jarrett: The Art of Improvisation‘ and on 2014 feature film ‘Titus‘.

I’ve written the liner notes for the Grammy-nominated ‘Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool’ DVD and albums by Billy CobhamTony WilliamsWorking WeekMaynard FergusonLA Express, Don Ellis, and Steve Khan.

I’ve performed and recorded with many artists and bands including the Shez Raja Collective, Anthony Joseph and the Spasm Band, Planetman and the Internationalz, Billy Cobham, Jem Godfrey, Moke, Scott Stroman and Jean Toussaint. I co-wrote two tracks on Silver Sun’s 2006 album Dad’s Weird Dream. Check out my Bandcamp page and drumming profile.



You may see ads on this site, and you may object to some — for example, ads for political causes or products you oppose. I do not endorse the content of any ad, nor do I select the ads. They are generated by WordPress’s software.



© Matt Phillips 2015-2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used – in fact are encouraged – provided that full and clear credit is given to Matt Phillips/soundsofsurprise.com with appropriate and specific links back to the original content. Copyright is not claimed for images of album covers.


Matt’s favourite jazz and jazz-related albums:

That’s The Way I Feel Now: A Tribute To Thelonious Monk

Miles Davis: Star People

Soweto Kinch: The New Emancipation

Weather Report: Sportin’ Life

Oliver Nelson: Blues And The Abstract Truth

Bob Belden: Black Dahlia

Eddie Gomez: Mezgo

The Quintet (Mingus, Powell, Parker, Gillespie, Roach): Live At Massey Hall

Mike Stern: Upside Downside

Vinnie Colaiuta (1994)

Jan Garbarek: Places

Brad Mehldau: Places

Dave Brubeck: Bravo Brubeck!

Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires: Second Sight

Bud Powell: The Amazing Bud Powell

John Scofield: Blue Matter

Miles Davis: Nefertiti

Billy Cobham: Spectrum

Weird Nightmare: Meditations On Mingus

Wayne Shorter: Phantom Navigator

Donald Fagen: The Nightfly

Jason Rebello: A Clearer View

Thelonious Monk: Genius Of Modern Music Vols. 1 & 2

Stanley Clarke (1974)

Larry Carlton: Last Nite

Herbie Hancock/Wayne Shorter/Freddie Hubbard/Ron Carter/Tony Williams: VSOP The Quintet

Bireli Lagrene: Foreign Affairs

Lyle Mays: Street Dreams

John Patitucci: One More Angel

Scott Henderson/Tribal Tech: Illicit

Herbie Hancock: Head Hunters

Keith Jarrett: Expectations

John McLaughlin/One Truth Band: Electric Dreams

Marcus Miller/Miles Davis: Music From Siesta

Steely Dan: Gaucho

Allan Holdsworth: Hard Hat Area

Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On

Ornette Coleman: Change Of The Century

John Abercrombie: Getting There

Weather Report: Mr Gone

Steve Khan: Casa Loco


Matt’s favourite books:

Indecent Exposure’ by David McLintick

‘Accident’ by Nicholas Mosley

‘A Lot Of Hard Yakka’ by Simon Hughes

‘5001 Nights At The Movies’ by Pauline Kael

‘Pressed For All Time’ by Michael Jarrett

Smoking In Bed‘ by Alistair Owen/Bruce Robinson

Songwriters On Songwriting’ by Paul Zollo

‘Miles Beyond’ by Paul Tingen

‘Misogynies’ by Joan Smith

Who The Hell‘ by Tom Hibbert

The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol And The American Writer’ by Thomas A Dardis

Aja (33 1/3)’ by Don Breithaupt

‘Franny & Zooey’ by JD Salinger

Easy Riders Raging Bulls’ by Peter Biskind

‘The Moronic Inferno’ by Martin Amis

The Complete David Bowie‘ by Nicholas Pegg

The People’s Music’ by Ian MacDonald

Visions Of Jazz‘ by Gary Giddins

Thelonious Monk‘ by Robin DG Kelley

Hate Mail’ by Mr Bingo

‘Rip It Up’ by Simon Reynolds

‘Straight From The Fridge, Dad’ by Max Decharne

‘The Caretaker’ by Harold Pinter


Matt’s favourite movies:

‘Groundhog Day’ (Ramis, 1993)

‘Diner’ (Levinson, 1982)

‘Duel’ (Spielberg, 1971)

‘Accident’ (Losey, 1967)

‘THX 1138’ (Lucas, 1970)

‘Lord Of The Flies’ (Brook, 1963)

‘This Is Spinal Tap’ (Reiner, 1983)

‘Sideways’ (Payne, 2004)

‘Tape’ (Linklater, 2001)

‘The Player’ (Altman, 1991)

‘Career Girls’ (Leigh, 1996)

‘Kes’ (Loach, 1969)

‘The Long Goodbye’ (Altman, 1973)

‘The Go-Between’ (Losey, 1970)

‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ (Forman, 1975)

‘Jaws’ (Spielberg, 1975)

‘Performance’ (Cammell/Roeg, 1970)

‘Walkabout’ (Roeg, 1971)

‘Don’t Look Now’ (Roeg, 1973)

‘Halloween’ (Carpenter, 1978)

‘Short Cuts’ (Altman, 1993)

‘The Parallax View’ (Pakula, 1974)

‘The Caretaker’ (Forbes, 1962)

‘The Apartment’ (Wilder, 1962)

‘The Disorderly Orderly’ (Tashlin, 1964)

‘Five Easy Pieces’ (Rafelson, 1970)

‘Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia’ (Peckinpah, 1974)

‘The Fog’ (Carpenter, 1980)

‘Caddyshack’ (Ramis, 1980)

‘Airplane’ (Zucker, 1980)

‘Psycho’ (Hitchcock, 1960)

‘The King Of Comedy’ (Scorsese, 1982)

‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (Kubrick, 1999)

‘Archipelago’ (Hogg, 2010)

‘Withnail And I’ (Robinson, 1987)

‘Last Tango In Paris’ (Bertolucci, 1972)


Matt’s favourite TV shows/films:

I’m Alan Partridge

Brass Eye


Trigger Happy TV

The Avengers (1965-1969)

Dennis Pennis: Very Important Pennis


The Firm (Clarke, 1989)

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

Tracking Down Maggie (Broomfield, 1994)

Grange Hill

The Tube

The Comic Strip Presents

Saturday Night Live (US)/Saturday Live (UK)


Curb Your Enthusiasm

Our Friends In The North

Baal (Clarke, 1982)

Kurt And Courtney (Broomfield, 1998)

Nuts In May (Leigh, 1976)

Abigail’s Party (Leigh, 1977)

The Office (UK)

Road (Clarke, 1988)

People Like Us

Meantime (Leigh, 1984)

The Thick Of It

The Day Today


Get in touch, it’s always good to hear from you:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: