‘Chris Searle’s sympathies are vast, international and rooted in a political vision that should be at the heart of anyone who loves jazz.’

Written by Chris Searle

Jazz In Britain

ISBN 978-1-9163206-7-3

Paperback 394 pages

The book also has two CDs of previously unreleased material, The whole production teems with insights, awareness and a definite point of view. In times past, people used to ask about a musician: ‘Do they have anything to say?’  In the Searle book, practically all the musicians have something to say.  They are all engaged with the world beyond the club and recording studio.

Chris has been writing in the Morning Star for around thirty years. The book is a collection of over 150 pieces on jazz musicians that have appeared in the paper in recent times.

I reviewed a book on jazz recently where the author stated quite squarely: ‘I confess that in the genres of bebop and hard bop, jazz created in the quarter century between, roughly 1942 and 1967, I find almost all of the jazz that I want and need.’  The second, extremely expensive book was simply a collection of LP sleeves masquerading as a survey of British jazz.  Chris Searle’s book could not be more different. It is free ranging, with a generous sweep from an author who loves the past as much as the present and the future.  Chris Searle’s sympathies are vast, international and rooted in a political vision that should be at the heart of anyone who loves jazz.

Chris sets all the music in context and, if he has a bias, it is to the new artists.  There are accounts of nights at the Vortex, Red Rose Club, the Lescar, Cafe Oto, Ronnie’s, the Pizza Express. The small labels are featured: Leo, Edition, Hatology, Spartacus, Pi, CIMP, Lacd, Baho, BydOut, Resteamed, Ogun, Fuse, Slam, Intakt, Krossover, Long Song, Tum.

When Chris Searle writes about music, he makes you wish you were there.  He also writes about musicians and makes you want to search out their work, even if they are difficult to find.  Underlying everything is the deeply felt belief that jazz music came from the playing of the dispossessed.  There is an account of John McLaughlin playing a concert in Ramallah on the West Bank in support of the al-Mada Musical Therapy Programme for traumatised children and adults. ‘Palestinians don’t have freedom,’ McLaughlin said, ‘ They don’t even have passports!’

Searle appreciates commitment and hates injustice. He writes: At 10 am on January 15 2013, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, Samir Awad, was shot dead by soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces near the village of Budrus in the West Bank, close to the separation wall that runs through his family’s land. ‘They shot him in cold blood! exclaimed one of his neighbours, ‘they shot him in the back.  It was an assassination.’   The wall had taken five acres of his family’s patrimony, 3000 of their olive trees, The Sons Of Kemet played an elegy for Samir on their album, ‘Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do’.

Angelica Sanchez from Phoenix and her album ‘How To Turn The Moon’ Music transcends all earthly things’, she insists. Saxophonist Rachel Musson believes that there is space for the disenfranchised in her volleys of notes. Trumpeter Yazz Ahmed believes that Jazz and Arabic music work beautifully together. Both genres share stories of hardship and struggles and express emotions melodically and through improvisation’.

Reem Kelani is a Mancunian/Palestinian born to a mother from Nazareth and a father from Jenin. Searle’s account of her music inspired by the songs of Palestine and Gaza is compelling.  A few pages later Searle will write about Art Baron of the last Duke Ellington orchestra that played at the Rainbow in 1973 or a Tubby Hayes club date. Luis Perdomo describes how he was taught by Harold Danko and Jackie Byard.

The great Hazel Miller founder of Ogun, wife of bassist Harry Miller, recorded the Blue Notes the South African band that created so much change in their fight against apartheid. Hazel said that their sound was so strong, you can hear their musical pathways in the notes of younger musicians even now. particularly those who play with Louis Moholo-Moholo, the last survivor.’

George Haslam of Slam Records reminisces about the CD of Lol Coxhill he recorded at the Gibbs Club in Cardiff, featuring Lol on soprano and sopranino. Haslam said about the eccentric genius.  ‘Lol’s most compelling legacy, beyond his recording, is the status he gave British musicians on the world stage’.

The greats of the home scene are featured.  Dave Green whose bass has been at the heart of so much great playing is interviewed.  Stan and Clark Tracey, Stan Sulzmann, Keith Tippett, even Bruce Turner with his mixture of Ellington and Konitz is acknowledged.  His music is featured on the accompanying CD, Sammy Rimington has a special place in Searle’s memory and has a chapter.

Mike Westbrook says in his introduction: ‘The book is a timely reminder that jazz is as vital and vibrant as ever.  You just have to know where to find it.’

At the heart of the book is a cry, it is the cry of the dispossessed.

The CDs

The CDs will not be available separately from the book. They are an accompaniment to the book and are not intended to be a commentary to the people mentioned in the book. The producers make the point that as the Chris McGregor recordings are from a collection of off-air recordings, they have some shortcomings in the sound quality.

It is always good to have examples of Chris McGregor’s bands. ‘Night Poem’ by the Brotherhood of Breath is unusual because of the restrained opening. The story behind the Bruce Turner tracks from Chris Searle’s archive is contained in the book.  It’s fair to say that the second of the two tracks is the best.

Historic names are there in abundance: Kenny Wheeler, Tubby Hayes. Dudu Pukwana, Mike Osborne, Stan Tracey, Dave Holland.

CD1

John Stevens Septet – BBC Jazz Club, 20 December 1965

Kenny Wheeler – flugelhorn; Chris Pyne – trombone; Ray Warleigh – alto sax; Alan Skidmore – tenor sax; Mike Pyne – piano; Ron Mathewson – bass; John Stevens – drums

  1. Number Three (Pyne) 7:20
  2. Sixes And Sevens (Wheeler) 7:08

Chris McGregor Group – BBC Jazz Scene, 13 August 1967

Mongezi Feza – trumpet; Dudu Pukwana – alto saxophone; Ronnie Beer – tenor saxophone; Chris McGregor –piano; Dave Holland – bass; Laurence Allan – drums

  1. Sabendye Baye (McGregor) 0:35

Chris McGregor Group – Ronnie Scott’s, London, 31 December 1967

Mongezi Feza – trumpet; Pat Higgs – trumpet; Mick Collins – trumpet; Malcolm Griffiths – trombone; Chris Pyne – trombone; Jimmy Phillips – soprano saxophone; Dudu Pukwana – alto saxophone; Mike Osborne – alto saxophone; Ronnie Beer – tenor saxophone – John Surman – baritone saxophone; Chris McGregor – piano; Dave Holland – bass; Alan Jackson – drums

  1. New Year Carnival (McGregor) 10:39

Chris McGregor Sextet – BBC Radio 3, 25 September 1968

Mongezi Feza – trumpet; Dudu Pukwana – alto sax; Ronnie Beer – tenor sax; Chris McGregor – piano; Dave Holland – bass; Louis Moholo – drums

  1. Sun Song (McGregor) 7:45

Brotherhood Of Breath – BBC Jazz In Britain, 2 November 1970

Harry Beckett – trumpet, flugelhorn; Mongezi Feza – bamboo flute; Mark Charig – cornet; Malcolm Griffiths, Nick Evans – trombones; Dudu Pukwana – alto sax; Mike Osborne – alto sax, clarinet; Alan Skidmore – tenor, soprano sax; Ronnie Beer – bamboo flute; Chris McGregor – ballaphon; Harry Miller – bass; Louis Moholo –drums

  1. Night Poem (McGregor) 16:24

Splinters – BBC Jazz Workshop, 28 December 1972

Kenny Wheeler – trumpet, flugelhorn; Trevor Watts – alto sax; Tubby Hayes – tenor sax, flute; Stan Tracey – piano; Jeff Clyne – bass; John Stevens – drums

  1. Six Piece Group Improvisation 23:31

CD2

Trevor Watts – Rock Against Racism Festival, The Pig in Paradise, Hastings, late 1980

Trevor Watts – alto sax; Simon Picard – tenor sax; Colin McKenzie – bass guitar; Liam Genockey – kit drums; Nana Tsiboe – talking drum

  1. Saalfelden Encore (Watts) 18:21

Bruce Turner Quartet – Jazz Against Racism, The Garage, Sloane Square, London, 1980

Bruce Turner – clarinet & alto sax; Michael Garrick – electric piano; Dave Green – bass; Alan Jackson – drums

  1. How About You? (Lane/Freed) 9:51
  2. Too Marvellous For Words (Mercer/Whiting) 10:04

Mujician – Live at The Albert, Bristol, 12 September 1993

Paul Dunmall – tenor sax; Keith Tippett – piano; Paul Rogers – bass; Tony Levin – drums

  1. Live At The Albert (23:06)

Trevor Watts / Mark Sanders duo, 17 October 2019

Trevor Watts – alto & soprano sax; Mark Sanders – drums

  1. Around the Corner 17:19