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1970s

1970s - On the International stage

Trumpeter Ian Carr’s Nucleus, a pioneering British jazz-rock band formed in 1969, gained crossover popularity, playing and recording music based loosely on the jazz-rock innovations of Miles Davis. Carr’s band played at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1970 and his important book Music Outside, portraying influential contemporary British musicians, was first published in 1973.

Multicultural ensembles like the Brotherhood of Breath, saxophonist Dudu Pukwana’s Spear, and soloists such as trumpeter Harry Beckett brought new, vivid influences to the music. In 1970, at their Buckinghamshire home, John Dankworth and his wife, singer Cleo Laine, founded the Wavendon All Music Plan to present musical performance in all genres including jazz, and instituted educational projects such as summer music camps and courses. From 1973 as a musical duo they began to conquer the US, playing at Carnegie Hall and similar venues throughout America and Europe for the next 30 years.

World-class British soloists who had emerged in the 1960s such as baritonist John Surman, altoist Mike Osborne, tenorist Alan Skidmore, trombonists Malcolm Griffiths and Paul Rutherford, pianist John Taylor, and vocalist Norma Winstone, began to achieve lasting international recognition during the 1970s and found enthusiastic audiences throughout Europe and beyond. Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, John Stevens and others continued to explore ‘free jazz’, sometimes now called simply ‘improv’. Pianist Keith Tippett led his 100-piece Centipede ensemble, then the small group Ovary Lodge (1973) and the 22-piece band Ark.

From the mid-1970s Peter Boizot’s Pizza Express venue in Dean Street, London began presenting American artists from the classic era, complementing the modern jazz policy of Ronnie Scott’s. Artists to make frequent appearances, alongside British contemporaries, included cornetist Ruby Braff, trumpeter Billy Butterfield and clarinettist ‘Peanuts’ Hucko, as well as new-generation mainstream performers such as tenorist Scott Hamilton and cornetist Warren Vaché Jr.

The Arts Council maintained its position as a strong supporter of jazz commissions for important artists in need of financial subsidy amid the rock revolution. Its Contemporary Music Network, which funded national tours by innovative ensembles, including contemporary jazz groups, was an important support for new developments. And the Jazz Centre Society, founded in 1969 as a national centre for jazz development, remained active as a promoting organisation until 1984. Other promotional groups such as Scotland’s Platform Jazz were formed in the 1970s to increase opportunities both to hear and play jazz.

Image: Poster for the Pizza Express Jazz Festival, hosted by Humphrey Lyttleton, with a salute to Count Basie. London Jazz Big Band, Al Grey, Larry Adler, Tony Coe Quartet, Harry Gold, Brian Lemon, Lennie Felix, Johnny Parker, Eddie Thompson, Martin Taylor, Digby Fairweather and Ike Isaacs feature. National Jazz Archive collection.

Download the full British Jazz Timeline written by Roger Cotterrell and Digby Fairweather

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