As British jazz in 2021 reaches domestic and international audiences of unprecedented size, so record companies are being emboldened to open up their archives and reissue long-buried treasures. So, too, are new labels being formed to make available recordings which have not previously been released, but which have survived in the tape libraries of the musicians who recorded themor, in some cases, the libraries of their surviving family members.
The most ambitious major label reissue program to date is Universal/Decca's British Jazz Explosion: Originals Re-Cut series. It will be launched in July 2021 with Journeys In Modern Jazz: Britain (1965-1972), which covers a particularly innovative period in British jazz in both small and large ensembles (which are more or less equally represented here). The fourteen track, 2-LP / 2-CD compilation flags up the individual albums planned for reissue from August 2021 into 2022. These albumschosen from the trove to be found in the now Universal-owned catalogues of Decca, Deram, Argo, Lansdowne, Fontana, Philips, Mercury and Verveare being remastered from the original tapes and will be released digitally and on all-analogue 180-gram vinyl pressings including flipback sleeves, original LP artwork and inserts featuring new liner notes.
British Jazz Explosion: Originals Re-Cut is the lovechild of producer and longtime British jazz collector Tony Higgins. Journeys In Modern Jazz: Britain (1965-1972) comes with a 20,000 word booklet, written by Higgins, which tells the story of post bop British jazz and also includes essays on each of the fourteen albums from which the tracks have been taken.
As with all such ventures, there will be protests from aficionados that such and such a musician or album is not included. All that needs to be said in advance of this sniping is that this is Higgins' selection and there is not one dud within it. The series comes with an endorsement from reed player Shabaka Hutchings, the de facto standard bearer of the new British jazz, who says: "The recordings by people like Michael Garrick, Mike Westbrook and John Surman are what really inspired me [in my early development]."
The first individual album releases to be announced are tenor saxophonist Don Rendell's Space Walk (Lansdowne, 1972) on July 16, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and the John Dankworth Orchestra's Windmill Tilter (The Story Of Don Quixote) (Fontana, 1969) on August 13, and The New Jazz Orchestra's Le Dejeuner Sur l'Herbe (MGM, 1969) on September 10.
Ken Wheeler And The John Dankworth Orchestra: Don The Dreamer; Don Rendell Quintet: A
Matter Of Time; Collin Bates Trio: Brew; John Surman, John Warren: With Terry’s Help;
Michael Garrick Sextet: Second Coming; Mike Westbrook Concert Band: Waltz (For Joanna);
Stan Tracey And His Big Band: Matinee Days; Harry Beckett: Third Road; Neil Ardley, Ian
Carr, Don Rendell: Greek Variations Kriti (edit); The New Jazz Orchestra: Angle; Alan
Skidmore Quintet: Old San Juan; Dick Morrissey Quartet: Storm Warning; Mike Taylor Quartet:
To Segovia; Michael Gibbs: Some Echoes, Some Shadows.
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In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.