British jazz is enjoying a strong creative surge and there have never been so many exciting groups and musicians making music we can loosely call jazz. The scene draws people from all walks of life and from all around the world – but then musicians have always been travellers.
As jazz made its way around the world (during the Second World War and the years that followed) in the bags of the GI's and airforce men, it found an enthusiastic welcome in many cities around Europe. France, Italy, Germany and Sweden all became home to American musicians such as Mal Waldren and Dextor Gordon, and labels flourished supporting the music. Enja, Black Saint, and Actual are all important names to look for.
In the years following the War, Army bands offered many musicians the best opportunity to develop their skills, and musicians would play the cruise ships to earn their way to hear the famous names in the clubs of New York. The scene was also influenced by the relationship with South Africa and the Caribbean Islands. Chris MacGregors's blue notes have had a lasting effect on a generation of musicians, and many of the current crop of musicians continue to shape the sound through the influence of their caribbean heritage.
This playlist mixes tracks from the music's history in the UK, alongside the creative voices of the present. Classics like Stan Tracey's “Starless and Bible Black” sit comfortably next to modern pianist Matthew Bourne’s solo piano; the Brotherhood of Breath classic “Mra” (sadly a live version, the original is not here yet), is balanced by the energy of Ugandan trumpeter Mark Kavuma's “Church”. It's a varied fare – as you would expect when the music draws on influences from free music, classical, dance music, calypso, carnival, electronica as well as on its own jazz history.