Great British Jazz.The Original Jazz Recordings
Smith & Co. Sound Division. SCCD 1143.
This double CD is not only enjoyable, it's a valuable historical
document, and that should be twice celebrated because historical documents are
So-called 'traditional jazz' is still alive and kicking in pubs,
clubs and festivals in every region from Bude to Kirkcudbright, and as far as
this collection is concerned must be defined as the jazz idioms of New Orleans
and the white Chicago music known for some unreason as 'Dixieland.'
True jazz - based on co-operative improvisation and forming a
strange four-way marriage between folk, ragtime, blues and African rhythms had
its Golden Age in the 1920s, then experienced a strong revival of popularity in
the 1940s. This popularity persisted through the 1950s when jazz first
established itself widely and deeply in Britain.
In this country the 1930s was an era dominated by institutions
known as 'dance bands' to which only the faintest traces of sub-jazz gave any
sort of vitality. Young musicians who had learned jazz mainly from recordings
of the American masters were often employed in these bands and had occasional
opportunities to blaze forth. For example Nat Gonella, a trumpeter from the
East End of London, was recognised as a player of immense talent, and allowed
by orchestra leader Lew Stone to front a band-within-a-band, known as the
Georgians. This unit became independent and well-known on radio and in clubs
and theatres all over the country. Humphrey Lyttelton and Kenny Ball were among
those influenced and inspired by Gonella.
In the 1950s when raw jazz grew popular enough to give life to a
profusion of small outfits, the young jazz players were liberated into
prodigies of joy and enthusiasm. I admit to a form of jazz snobbery at this
time which caused me to collect 1920s American jazz, and to ignore the British
bands. That idiocy has long been overcome, but the fact does increase my
delight in hearing again the music of British bands played with remarkable
skill, invention and energy by all these accomplished musicians. If you know
the music this CD will bring back the spirit of the time, and may threaten you
with the urge to jump up and down. If you don't know the music, try it. You may
be astonished to find that an event which starts with mere foot-tapping can end
with a form of euphoria. The best of luck.
Below is an alphabetical list of bands, identified by the
Crane River Jazz band
Merseysippie Jazz band
Saints Jazz band
and the Yorkshire
I was particularly taken by the Saints, a species rarely
encountered in jazz, and a unit I had never heard before.