As one of the television channel’s popular Britannia series around popular music and style, there’s a documentary on BBC Four this Friday, the second of its two in its 1950s series. (The first was Rock & Roll Britannia, shown last week.) It’s called Trad Jazz Britannia. I feature on it, possibly talking about New Orleans-style marching bands in Britain, particularly on political demonstrations. From the programme’s page on the BBC website:
One hour documentary telling the story of Britain’s post-war infatuation with old New Orleans jazz. With rare 78rpm imports as their only guide, a generation of amateur jazz enthusiasts including Humphrey Lyttelton and Chris Barber created a traditional jazz scene that strove to recreate the essence and freedom of 1920s New Orleans in 1950s Britain. While British youth jived in smoky dives, the music itself was beset by arguments of authenticity. Begging to differ with the source material, Ken Colyer embarked on a pilgrimage to New Orleans in search of the real deal while a larger ideological war raged between mouldy figs and dirty boppers- traditional and modern jazz fans. As its popularity grew, commercial forces descended and a ‘trad’ boom sent the purists running for cover at the turn of the decade – the first and last time New Orleans jazz became British pop.
The programme is broadcast on Friday 24 May, 9 pm, with repeats on Saturday 25 and Monday 27 May.
E Taylor Atkins, Catherine Tackley, George McKay, rethinking
You know you must be doing something right when the jazz media starts reviewing academic events. Excellent! Here’s to more and deeper dialogue and collaboration between all critics, enthusiasts, and historians of the music. As reviewer Ian Patterson asks in his piece, just published here in the leading online magazine All About Jazz:
The study of jazz in academic institutions may be a relatively modern trend, but the presence of over a hundred academics from South Africa to Russia and from America to Portugal at the Rhythm Changes: Rethinking Jazz Cultures conference, at Media City UK, Salford, underlined that it’s an undeniably global phenomenon. It’s also a sign of the continuing evolution and maturation of historical, socio-political, anthropological and musicological perspectives on music that is more than a century long in the tooth. There may be some who feel that jazz and academia make for odd companions, mutually exclusive fields, but if academic scrutiny is good enough for poetry, literature, graphic art, cinema, theater and other forms of music, then why not jazz?
So looking forward to this conference at MediaCityUK, the culmination of our three-year HERA-funded European jazz research project, Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities. We have over 100 delegates coming from 20 countries, and I am especially looking forward to seeing the British jazz historian and photographer Val Wilmer talking, about some of her famous images and her career, on the Sunday. And there’s a photography exhibition, with a special commission, several bands playing live, a music commission too. (The full programme is here.) So we have academics, independent researchers, media practitioners, musicians, all talking as an international community of jazzers. As my friend and colleague—and you know what, we are all friends and colleagues on this project, that’s been one of the many great things about it—Prof Tony Whyton puts it, in his welcome notes in the conference programme:
Rhythm Changes has drawn on the expertise of 13 researchers who work across 7 institutions in 5 European countries, but the growing network of partners, musicians and scholars—including those participating in the 2011 ‘Jazz and National Identities Conference’ in Amsterdam and ‘Rethinking Jazz Cultures’ in Salford—means that the scope and impact of Rhythm Changes is ever widening. Our packed conference programme offers stimulating keynote presentations and panels, plenary sessions, papers, performances, poster presentations and exhibitions, all of which should [will!] generate high quality debate and discussion. Rhythm Changes has sought to encourage people to rethink the way jazz has been articulated, represented and understood, and this conference will be a powerful reflection of this core aim.
Adverse Camber is a double bass duo I’m half of, the other half being Ken Johnston. This video was filmed and edited by Barrie Marshall, Lancaster clarinettist and jazz photographer, at the Robert Gillow pub in Lancaster on Wednesday 20 March. The Gillow has live music on seven days a week, and we were the act that night, two sets, 9-11.30 pm or so. (Swerve Trio has a fortnightly residency there on Monday evenings.) It’s quite brave actually I think for a pub landlord to book an act like a double bass duo as the evening’s entertainment, so thank you Mark Cutter. Barrie emailed me the YouTube link to the footage he uploaded, and we had a little correspondence about the film / music:
GM: Thanks so much Barrie. Very steady and good quality definition video!! Wonderful.
BM: Thanks George, it was good to video because of all the bowing and the bass slapping, means I could move around to make it more interesting, what is the tune and is it one of yours?
GM: We’ve started to move from one piece into another, the first one usually played quite straight and then the second as a vehicle for improvising—so we do ‘Red river valley’ into ‘All blues’. And this one is Ellington’s ‘Come Sunday’ into one of mine, a G minor blues, called ‘Ganzirri Blues’. A simple melody but one thing that makes it more interesting is it’s arco sul ponte, ie using the bow, and playing as near the bridge as possible, to get those thin high harmonic sounds. That leads into a kind of free-ish solo, but still with a blues sense to it. Oh and there’s the percussive part at start and end, where I hit the bass with my hands to connect with Ken’s bass line—hit the back with flat of palm for a bass drum sound and the front / fingerboard sometimes with knuckles for a higher sound like snare a bit. I don’t hit this bass hard like I used to my previous bass sometimes because this one is a much nicer and historic instrument! Thanks again for videoing it.