|NJA - Jazz Illustrated...|
The National Jazz Archive is full of fabulous interviews, magazines and photos of musicians. This month (June, 2016) they feature Jazz Illustrated, a wonderful magazine first published in November 1949 but which folded in July 1950 after just eight issues. Despite its short run Jazz Illustrated offers an intriguing insight into jazz in the UK in the early 1950s.
The magazine was edited by Jim Godbolt and its contributors included Max Jones and Steve Race with occasional cartoons by Humphrey Lyttelton. All the issues are available to read online here...|
The NJA website contains copies of many other jazz magazines or journals here...
Below are two brief extracts from 1950 copies of Jazz Illustrated that may be of interest to visitors to this website:
MUSIC FOR MODERNS by Vic Lewis
MOST people will be surprised to know that my first ideas on Progressive Music came about in the days of my eight-piece band, known as the Jazzmen. I wrote a series of Etudes which the Jazzmen featured one by one in their programmes.
There was "Etude in Blue", "Etude in Red" and others, eight in all. All of them carried the unmistakable stamp of what is now recognised as Progressive or Modern music. I did not quite know myself what I was aiming at in those days, but I wanted to create a new and interesting kind of music... something exciting to listen to and, preferably, not in constant tempo, as it gave me more scope when I did not have to be thinking in terms of playing for dancing.
The new music I had in mind was creative, and not just a series of sounds joined together . . . each piece was to be built around a definite story. "Picture Music" is the term that has been used to describe this, and, indeed, it is so. If there was passion and violence to portray, then the music created a positive wall of sound, only the wall wasn't as vast as I would have liked it to have been with an eight-piece band. However, it was definitely a beginning, and stimulated my thoughts along broader lines.
It is not easy to describe, or define, an innovation in any sphere of artistic activity, but I shall attempt to at least give a broad picture of my aims in the field of Progressive Music. Actually, Progressive is not a particularly apt term, as we are no more Progressive than many musicians and composers in the classical spheres throughout history, but the term has been tagged to music of the kind I am playing and only in time will a more suitable term be applied. The music of George Gershwin has always impressed me as descriptive, or programme music, in that certain pictures of events, or impressions of mood, came to the imaginative listener on hearing his works. Gershwin's " American in Paris", for instance, is a superb piece of descriptive writing in that the listener is transported to the streets of Paris traversed by the American traveller and can feel the changing moods that would be experienced by that person. Nostalgia ; excitement; surprise ; elation ; fatigue ; are portrayed by musical sounds and changes of tempo and volume.
The Blues theme depicting nostalgia and recollection of the American's native music in a foreign city I found particularly moving. So I decided that the music I was going to play was music that described emotion, thoughts or stories.
How was I to set about this task ? As you will appreciate, it was no easy matter to start something new in the rather set and reactionary scene of British dance music, Plans, hazy I admit, but plans of a definite shape.
STEVE RACE, Record Critic
While I have every respect for Stan Kenton, who maintained his musical standards (whether we may share them or not) in the teeth of financial opposition, and for Vic Lewis, who could have reduced the size of his band months ago and made a small fortune, I'm afraid I don't share their enthusiasm for Progressive Jazz. It has little or no connection with true Jazz - Progressive Swing would be a better term and the contemporary straight music to which it owes its existence is so far in advance that, having learnt to appreciate Kenton, one might as well go the whole hog and learn to appreciate Bartok.
My chief complaint against Kenton and Rugolo is their constant striving for effect, even at the expense of reason. Where Bartok applies an almost mathematical logic to the production of, say, a closing chord, I'm pretty sure the Progressive boys merely find a nice juicy, difficult-sounding chord, and tack it on the end, regardless of context. As a result, their music has little Head, and less Heart. I would except from this the wonderful middle period of Kenton, and I would never question his sincerity, but a little less blind devotion from the fans might ensure that the music did not overstep its own limitations.
I believe Vic Lewis has assimilated the best of Kenton already. In a musical scene run almost entirely by questions of finance and that includes revivalist Jazz, with its expensive private recordings and club memberships his overruling interest in musical quality deserves every success.
Johnny Dankworth Seven|
Brilliant Modern style altoist Johnny Dankworth has formed a new band of unusual character. Their first performance at a Ted Heath Swing Show puzzled parts of the audience, an omen of the struggle for recognition that every uncommercial band has to face. In many different ways, the old rules are being broken by young musicians whose convictions take them outside the slough and limitations of conventional dance music. On May 10th, Johnny Dankworth will open his own club, meeting at Mackâs Restaurant, 100, Oxford Street, London, W.l. every Wednesday evening.
"It is anything but easy to sit down, put pen to paper, and, in a few hundred brave words, tell the world the essence of a new musical policy. Words which can, in a moment, express the climax of a psychological metamorphosis of years do not easily come to hand. But my decision to embark on a project which I knew would be a responsibility, and, at times, an anxiety, was brought about by my arrival at two main conclusions.
The first, that modern jazz in England was being represented by two schools, neither of which I could condone. The raucous Be-bop school with its eye to physical excitement at the expense of musical value often held my attention, but only, in the case of one or two isolated musicians, my respect. The self-styled progressives, with their unblushing emulation of the Impressionist composers of the symphonic world, may be commended for their gallant attempts to bring better music to the Tin Pan Alley-fed populace, but from a hot music enthusiasts point of view, their only progression seems to be away from the roots of jazz.
The way seems to me to lie along a different road, probably not a new one, but one which has certainly been overlooked during the developments of the past few years. I am attempting, with my new band, to bring back a purely musical sound into British jazz, for, after all, melody must surely be the basis of any form of music.The scores which I write for the group will never, I sincerely hope, sound smart for smartness sake. Similarly no musical work will find its place in my programmes merely because it is popular (or, conversely, because it is not popular !). Each number will stand or fall on its intrinsic worth, or at very least, on the distinction that can be added to it in interpretation.
The second conclusion of mine was this. Jazz, like any other art form, has evolved throughout the years, and ceased to be a pure folk-music as long ago as 1919, when Bunk Johnson added Irving Berlin's 'When I Leave The World Behind' to his band's repertoire. This is proved beyond all shadow of doubt when we realise that we find nine out of every ten coloured American musicians, and after all, jazz is the American coloured people's music, playing in the evolved style rather than the traditional form. (Even Sydney Bechet confessed to me in Sweden that two of his favourite tunes were 'Laura' and 'How High The Moon', each modern in harmonic structure).
Thus we find jazz holding an ever smaller following of dancers and an ever-growing entourage of listeners. The obvious step therefore is to present jazz in an atmosphere amenable to a listening audience, with a simultaneous increase in dignity of production that this new audience will no doubt demand. The new generation of performers and orchestras can no longer keep a large percentage of intelligent listeners with maudlin sentimentality and music-hall comedy stunts. Thus, from these views, my future musical policy is obvious. It is to present good modern jazz, in an atmosphere of musical and social integrity, to an audience which has suffered long from the lack of these very qualities.
In choosing my personnel, (Jimmy Deuchar, Don Rendell, Eddie Harvey, Bill Le Sage, Joe Muddel and Tony Kinsey), I have tried to strike a balance between the obvious necessity of using accomplished and experienced performers, and the undesirability of a band of stars, which has never succeeded in producing a worthwhile musical result. I can only say of each of my men that, apart from tremendous respect for their present standards, I have the utmost faith in their future achievements. And, equally important, I have chosen only men whom I can admire personally as well as musically ; a band with an unhappy social interior could never produce the music for which I am striving.
There, then, you have it. My only hope is that the knowledge of the sincere beliefs which gave birth to this new musical venture of ours will leave you in the right state of mind to listen to our music, for what it may be worth."