The history of jazz in the UK is a fascinating but tortuous affair, involving factionalism, class conflict, rejuvenation from immigration, youth revolt, social upheaval, decline, survival and revival. Between now and mid-February, there is an ideal opportunity to embark on an intensive crash course in many aspects of jazz in the UK, both live and on TV.
Remarkably (given how rarely jazz is given any airtime on television), cable TV channel BBC Four is the main focus of a season of programmes collectively called Jazz Britannia . At the heart of this season are three specially commissioned hour-long documentaries covering the development of the music. The first, Stranger on the Shore , covers the birth of jazz in the UK, including the rivalry between traditionalists and modernists (a rivalry that persists to this day and is perpetuated in the pages of many magazines). The second programme, Strange Brew covers the excitement of the 60's and 70's including the huge influence of Caribbean and South African players and the birth of free improv. Finally, The Rebirth of Cool takes us from the jazz revival of the 80's, kick-started by the arrival of The Jazz Warriors, through to the current rebirth, with artists as diverse as Jamie Cullum and Soweto Kinch. As these programmes are on a cable channel, the good news is that they will be repeated several times, giving plenty of opportunities to catch them.
As well as these documentaries, the season also includes a host of jazz and jazz-related programmes, many of which provide insights into the social history of the UK as well as the music.
The season culminates in a collaboration over the weekend of February 12th and 13th, when two evening concerts staged at The Barbican, featuring key figures from the history of jazz in the UK, will be broadcast live on BBC Four.
Friday 28th January
9pm to 9.30pm
Programme based on evocative 8mm home movie footage shot by jazz musician Denis Rose, about Archer Street in Soho in the early 1950's - a key meeting place for jazz musicians.
RONNIE SCOTT AT THE COCONUT GROVE
9.30pm to 10pm
Ronnie Scott and his quintet perform at the Coconut Grove in Leeds in 1987. Songs include Carib Blue, Recorda Me and Stella by Starlight.
JAZZ BRITANNIA - STRANGER ON THE SHORE
10pm to 11pm; also 2.30am to 3.30am; Saturday 29th January, 11.30pm to 12.30am; Tuesday 1st February, 2.30am to 3.30am (Monday night)
In the underground clubs of Soho, issues of class and race were being played out alongside exciting new music.
LOVE YOU MADLY
11pm to 11.40pm
A musical salute to Duke Ellington, featuring performances from Stan Tracey Big Brass, Joe Harriott, Don Rendell, Ian Carr, Tony Coe, Acker Bilk, Cleo Laine, the John Dankworth Band and others.
PANORAMA: JAZZ CLUBS
11.40pm to 11.50pm
This programme from 1961 looks at the day's youth, with their passion for jazz, tight neck-ties, loose sweaters and looser morals.
11.50pm to 12.50am
Documentary showing how post war Britain was enlivened by the trad jazz scene.
Saturday 29th January & Sunday 30th January
BRECON JAZZ 2000
Saturday 29th January, 10.45pm to 11pm
George Melly and John Chilton's Feetwarmers in concert.
STAN TRACEY: UNDER MILK WOOD
Sunday 30th January, 12.30am to 1.20am (Saturday night)
A jazz suite inspired by Dylan Thomas' drama for voices, recorded at the Brecon Jazz Festival 2001, with the Stan Tracey Quartet.
STAN TRACEY: GODFATHER OF BRITISH JAZZ
Sunday 30th January, 1.20am to 2.35am (Saturday night)
Documentary celebrating the life and work of jazz pianist and composer Stan Tracey.
Friday 4th February
9pm to 10pm; 2.40am to 3.40am; also Tuesday 8th February, 11pm to midnight
Performances by some of the stalwarts of British jazz including John Dankworth and Cleo Laine, Victor Feldman featuring Ronnie Scott, The Tubby Hayes Big Band, The Johnny Scott Quartet, Annie Ross with the Tony Kinsey Quintet and Bill Le Sage's Directions in Jazz.
JAZZ BRITANNIA - STRANGE BREW
10pm to 11pm; also 1.40am to 2.40am; Sunday 6th February, 12.40am to 1.40am (Saturday night)
In the 1960s and early 70s British jazz stepped out of the shadow of America and found a distinct voice.
11pm to 11.20pm
Peter Clayton presents this 1977 piece on the trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and his Big Band.
Friday 11th February
DVD COLLECTION: JAZZ SPECIAL
9pm to 9.30pm; also midnight to 12.30am
Stuart Maconie and guests take a look at the best DVDs related to jazz.
JAZZ AT THE BBC
9.30pm to 10pm
British jazz from the BBC's archives over the past 25 years including performances by Stan Tracey, Annie Whitehead, Courtney Pine, Soweto Kinch and others.
JAZZ BRITANNIA - THE RE-BIRTH OF COOL
10pm to 11pm; also 2.25am to 3.25am
In the 1980s Courtney Pine helped give jazz a Black British identity, while Gilles Peterson's Acid Jazz label brought the music to clubbers.
Saturday 12th February & Sunday 13th February
JAZZ BRITANNIA LIVE AT THE BARBICAN: GILLES PETERSON IMPRESSED/REMIXED
Saturday 12th February, 9pm to 11pm
With Michael Garrick Big Band, Matthew Herbert, Soweto Kinch, Stan Tracey, Bobby Wellins, Norma Winstone.
JAZZ BRITANNIA LIVE AT THE BARBICAN: COURTNEY PINE
Sunday 13th February, 9.05pm to 11.05pm
With Courtney Pine's band and special guests, Talvin Singh, Tony Remy, Alex Wilson, Tony Kofi, Byron Wallen, plus more to be confirmed.
As well as the two evening concerts that are being screened live, the Jazz Britannia weekend at The Barbican will include free foyer events, screenings of jazz movies and - on the afternoon of Saturday 13th February - a concert with a stellar line-up, to be held in the Barbican Conservatory, including Stan Tracey & Louis Moholo, Andy Sheppard & Kuljit Bhamra, John Surman with Chris Laurence & John Marshall, Evan Parker, Django Bates, Orphy Robinson, Lol Coxhill, Mike Westbrook. Wow! Book now.
For more information about Jazz Britannia, visit BBC Four and The Barbican
To prepare for this feast, here are ten great UK jazz albums as hors d'oeuvres :
| || Humphrey Lyttleton |
The Parlophones. Volume 1
| || The Jazz Couriers |
Some of My Best Friends
| || Joe Harriott|
| || Tubby Hayes |
Down in the Village
| || Stan Tracey |
Under Milk Wood
| || Chris McGregor & Brotherhood Of Breath|
Brotherhood of Breath
| ||John McLaughlin |
| ||John Surman|
| ||Evan Parker|
50th Birthday Concert
| ||Soweto Kinch|
Conversations with the Unseen