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1940s

Divide & Conquer

The danceable and highly-skilled music of the Swing Era (1935-45) as played by Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller and others, helped carry Britain through the Second World War. Nightclubs were as popular as ever. New performers like George Shearing and Harry Parry arrived on the scene and broadcast on the BBC, and Britain’s jazz community was further enriched by the influx of West Indian musicians.

At this point, jazz divided into two musical groups: modern jazz (or Bebop) and traditional jazz Revivalism. Bebop, whose most enduring American icon is alto-saxophonist Charlie Parker, expanded the possibilities of improvisation, while Revivalism sought to re-engage jazz with its traditional New Orleans roots. Prominent post-war modernists in Britain included John Dankworth and Ronnie Scott, while high-profile Revivalists included George Webb’s Dixielanders and Humphrey Lyttelton.

Image: Programme from Queensbury Jazz Club, 1942.

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