‘Radical and tumultuous jazz period

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Jan 2013 ‘Radical and tumultuous jazz period

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Book: Trad Dads, Dirty Boppers and Free Fusioneers

Equinox, £29.99 486 pages

 

Running alongside pop and rock – if with a shade less impact – the UK’s modern jazz scene was irrepressibly vibrant and dynamic.

Britain was awash with intrepid pioneers and catalysts, and boasted a diverse range of highly talented and ambitious jazzmen who – whether or not they’d originally been influenced by American ideas – were tirelessly adventurous and experimental.

Despite its apparently frivolous title, this hardback volume is a rigorous socio-political study that – with a penetrating intensity – places British jazz in the context of its times.

Heining’s magnum opus is a mammoth undertaking that carries a deeply considered – but decidedly opinionated – analysis of how UK jazz developed, and of how it was affected by such issues as politics, race and drugs.

It’s a richly erudite book – a formidable oeuvre with a dense text punctuated by some b&w photos and resplendent with a succession of illustrious names that will send readers scurrying to check their music collections.

It resonates with the author’s own interviews with the sadly dwindling band of ‘survivors’ from those who helped shape British jazz, and his voracious research through pertinent books and magazines.

Unlike in pop and rock with their clearly defined groups, jazz has tended to be an interwoven world where musicians work with particular contemporaries for a while and then move on. It has always been a fecund artistic terrain that has also seen its practitioners making occasional inroads into other fields.

Heining’s archaeological dig and forensic examination turns a piercing searchlight’s unremitting gaze onto the individualists and movements that emerged, particularly in London. One of the capital’s symbolic jazz centres is Ronnie Scott’s club, and on the front of the book is a vintage photo of Scott – himself a star sax player who’s part of the story – standing outside that celebrated establishment.

 

Duncan Heining

 

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