In 1962, London was at a crossroads, musically. Throughout the 1950s, traditional jazz and skiffle dominated the live music scene. Lacking a robust and free radio environment thanks to rigid control of the airwaves by the BBC, young people and adults clung to what they knew. For the senior set, trad jazz, with its upbeat melodies and harmony lines, kept spirits high. For the young, washboard folk provided an earthy refuge from British formality and creeping modernity. From the the 1950s forward, modern jazz began to take hold, mirroring the Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside albums making waves across the Atlantic in the States.
By 1962, just before the breakout of R&B in London and success of R&B cover bands including Liverpool's Beatles, modern jazz enthralled young and old alike. For many British modern jazzers, the music provided a more contemporary feel laced with New York smarts and cool. Many London musicians also were influenced by touring American modern-jazz artists. [Photo above of Bill McGuffie]
On Nov. 4, the U.K.'s R&B Records has released a two-CD set entitled Soho Scene '62: Jazz Goes Mod. The first CD features a wide range of London jazz artists, including Tubby Hayes, Don Rendell, Joe Harriott, Ronnie Ross, Al Fairweather, Alan Clare, Victor Feldman and many others. The second CD features influential American jazz recordings in 1962 by Lee Morgan, Hank Crawford, Paul Desmond, Cannonball Adderley and others. It's a nifty concept that provides a sturdy snapshot of the Brit jazz scene and its history before all the swinging in London began.
Among the highlights are Give Seven by the Bill McGuffie Quintet, Good Morning Judge by Ronnie Ross and the Jazz Workshop, Not So Blue by the Tony Coe Quintet, Before by Sir Larry Frazier and more. But in all honesty, there isn't a bad track on this CD set. In the music, you hear traces of drum-driven jazz favored by British mods, which would turn up in English rock and cinema scores in the years that followed. [Photo above of Ronnie Ross]
The influential American jazz tracks from 1962 place an emphasis on jazz-funk that paved the way for soul-jazz. It's fun to hear where this music was heading in a specific year and how Brit jazz was influenced by it. Among the wonderful gems is Kenny Burrell's Out of This World, which will make your head turn completely around. As evidenced here, 1962 was a more important year for jazz than we realized in New York and London.
As a side note, all of the tracks on this set sound crystal clear and spectacular. Not sure what they did to make them pop with sonic definition, but I wish all albums sounded this good.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find the two-CD set Soho Scene '62: Jazz Goes Mod at eBay and at the label's site here. It will be on Amazon Nov. 4.
JazzWax clips: Here's Good Morning Judge by Ronnie Ross and the Jazz Workshop...
Here's Give Seven by the Bill McGuffie Quintet...
And here's Not So Blue by the Tony Coe Quintet...