Blue Note, Verve and Soul Jazz are just some record labels that have released world famous Jazz, Funk records for many a year. A label that might not be as commonly known in RnB Records who have released some stunning Jazz / Funk compilations featuring a mixture of rarely heard tunes mixed with some well-known players of the that ilk. Matt Mead overlooks the releases and the culture of the music for Louder Than War with creator Nick Duckett.
Jazz Goes Mod – Soho Scene ‘60
Nick: As far as proving its international mettle was concerned, 1959 had been the most impressive year yet for British modern jazz. Barely three years had passed since the lifting of the embargo on visiting American jazz artists, and by the close of the 1950s, it was no means uncommon to find celebrated US soloists praising the work of London jazzmen in print, illustrating how the Smoke’s parochial take on Hard Bop fashion now stood shoulder to shoulder with the Big Apple’s original. By early 1960, the first waves of Ornette Coleman’s New York musical tsunami had begun to reach British shores, and the local model of free-form then being pioneered by Jamaican altoist Joe Harriott found more critical acceptance than its counterpart played by Coleman, but Harriott a maverick, and would have little direct impact on the work of the majority of his contemporaries.
Elsewhere though it was the template of the Jazz Couriers and their Hard Bop-derived modus operandi that continued to set the style for local modern jazz groups and in its wake came several worthy successors; the MJ6 featuring Stan Tracey; The Quintet headed by Ronnie Scott and Jimmy Deuchar; the Bert Courtley/Ronnie Ross Jazztet; the Ken Wray/Bobby Wellins Quintet; Allan Ganley and Keith Christie’s New Jazzmakers: the Jazz Five co-led by Vic Ash and Harry Klein. In summer 1960, John Dankworth reorganised his big band, bringing in new names such as pianist Dudley Moore and Peter King, the alto sensation who had lit up Ronnie Scott’s club the previous autumn.
Tubby Hayes was another young veteran who welcomed the rise of a new wave, in one interview singling out not only King but also pianist Brian Dee, drummer Tony Mann and tenorist Stan Robinson as young men to watch. Like all other UK modern jazzmen, Robinson’s opportunities for growth and exposure were foreshortened; his début recording (with the Jazzmakers) was taped in December 1960 but up until its inclusion on this anthology it remained unissued.
At club level, modernism continued to survive if not quite thrive, although the scene was still so small that it occasionally resulted in skirmishes between those promoting the music – most notably a very public spat between Ronnie Scott and Sam Kruger. But otherwise modernists remained on the back foot. One of the few successes was the sudden interest in Tubby Hayes following his Tubby’s Groove album making the unprecedented leap to Melody Maker’s LP of the Month in June 1960. A month later came the infamous “Battle of Beaulieu”, a yob-culture fracas at the annual jazz festival held at Lord Montagu’s Hampshire home, which somehow or other got blown up into a battle between the respective fans of trad and modern jazz.
Jazz goes Mod – Soho Scene 66’
Nick: Getting the platters that matter. It’s what it’s always been about. Straight in to Transatlantic Records Limited in Marylebone Lane W.1. Eyes scanning some great records such as ‘Kirk’s Work’ by Roland Kirk, and ‘Hip Soul’ by Shirley Scott. I pull out a copy of ‘Presenting The Harry South Big Band’ and check out the dream line up of British artists involved. Look at the sax section alone: Roy Willox, Alan Branscombe, Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, Dick Morrisey and Pete King. ‘Six To One Bar’ is a blues in 6/4 time, and it hits the spot. Of course I already know of Harry South, having seen him with his orchester earlier in the year at the Marquee, playing alongside some of the musicians already mentioned plus Georgie Fame on vocals.
It’s all about getting the nights right. You usually avoid the 100 Club as it’s too trad, but every so often they may put on somebody like Art Themen, so you pop down there, but if you have the night wrong, you are bombarded with R&B styles such as Steve Darbyshire and The Yum Yums or maybe The Artwoods. Even our old haunt, Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead, has given itself over totally to these kind of acts. No jazz on the menu there these days!
The best place in town, is in fact the newest place in town. It is of course, dear old Ronnie Scott’s, who has moved to new larger premises at 47 Frith Street, although it still only holds 160 people. Now it’s open from 8.30 till 3am, with the good news being that the bar is open until it closes and not 1am like the old gaff. Best gig for me personally was the fantastic Mark Murphy with Alan Haven on organ duties and Tony Crombie on drums. That was some gig! But that’s the great thing about Ronnie’s, the fact that although some may say it’s expensive, in reality they always provide a great vocalist backed by a great band. For instance, earlier this year Ernestine Anderson backed by Yusef Lateef, or Sonny Rollins on another occasion. Its lack of dancefloor guarantees you have to watch and listen to the band. The year of Jazz ’66 belongs to Ronnie Scott’s smoke-stained club!
The Jazz Goes Mod releases are available to buy from RnB Records site.
All words by Matt Mead. Further articles by Matt can be found at the Louder Than War author archive page.