Trans-Atlantic Jazz: a dialogue in words & music
Jazz was, from the beginning, the fruit of international dialogue. Not only were its roots spread across Africa, Europe and the Americas, but this distinctive music of the southern United States became within a few short years an international phenomenon. Arriving in Britain in person as well as on disc, and later on the airwaves, the music delighted and shocked in equal measure. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band played the London Hipprodrome as early as 1919; by the 1930s jazz of various stripes was commonly heard on the radio in the UK and, in turn, played and broadcast by British musicians overseas. The years after the war were an especially interesting moment, since a dispute between Musicians’ Union in the UK and the American Federation of Musicians had brought an end to touring. While cutting off UK musicians from a vital source of their education and inspiration, this post-war isolation arguably allowed British musicians breathing space to develop their styles.
Image: King’s Big Band in Concert, 2017 © King’s Jazz Society 2017
This concert, presented by the King’s Big Band, explored music written on each side of the Atlantic in the mid-century decades. Beginning with charts of the 1930 and 40s, the concert will focus especially on music of the 1950s on by the likes of American composers Duke Ellington, Lee Morgan and Gil Evans and British ones John Dankworth and Kenny Wheeler (a Canadian transplant). Rather than pursuing national differences – still less, national characters – we instead sook to recognise each composition as both a response to a local context and a contribution to an international jazz community: emphasising at once the centrality of American, commonly African American, composers to the jazz tradition, and the distinctive, sometimes idiosyncratic, role of British musicians in jazz practice.
King’s Big Band is one of the top student bands in London. In recent years they have performed aboard the HMS President, in the House of Lords, and on BBC2. The band comprises top musicians from King’s and nearby conservatoires, and is the flagship ensemble of King's thriving Jazz Society.
Alice Finn is a Jazz vocalist and President of the King's Jazz Society. She has worked with the likes of Kit Downes, Barry Green, Luca Boscagin, Emilia Martensson and Brigitte Beraha.
Justin Tambini is King's alumni and will act as musical director for this concert. He is in his first year of study on the Masters course in Jazz Performance at the Royal Academy of Music.
Catherine Tackley is Professor and Head of Music at the University of Liverpool. Her publications include two monographs: The Evolution of Jazz in Britain 1880-1935 (2005) and Benny Goodman’s Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert (2012).
Andy Fry teaches in the Music Department at King’s. His publications include Paris Blues: African American Music and French Popular Culture, 1920-1960 (2014). Among his recent modules for the BMus and MMus courses are Post-War Jazz, Jazz on Film, and Jazz Historiography.