Great British Jazz at Southbank Centre

Six decades of tributes, stories and Impro

As part of Southbank Centre’s Festival of Britain 60th anniversary celebrations with MasterCard, the GREAT BRITISH JAZZ mini-series of four concerts is a celebration of some key moments in the evolution of jazz in the UK and the musical movers and shakers that have defined British jazz over the past six decades, since the Festival of Britain in 1951.
 
The series kicks off in the Purcell Room on Tuesday 19th July with Evan Parker, who emerged from the maelstrom of free jazz in the 1960s, and remains an improviser of immense resource, an inspirational figure who has made a global impact. Celebrating the continuing evolution of improvised music in Britain, Parker leads a hand-picked group with five hugely gifted musicians reflecting five decades of probing, innovative music – guitarist John Russell, violinist Phil Waschsmann and the energetic bassist John Edwards matched with flautist Neil Metcalfe and, from today’s scene, trumpeter Percy Pursglove.

The Tomorrow’s Warriors Jazz Orchestra, led by Artistic Director Gary Crosby, premieres new arrangements of the music of Steve Williamson (Purcell Room, Saturday 23rd July). After emerging to great fanfare as a member of the Jazz Warriors in the mid 1980s, tenor and soprano saxophonist Steve Williamson went on to record three superlative albums, “Waltz For Grace”, “Rhyme Time [That Fuss Was Us]” and “Journey To Truth”. These recordings are important statements in jazz in the last three decades and bring together challenging compositional ideas and surging rhythms that reflect Williamson’s affinity to the American M-Base movement as well as his interest in African music and his own Jamaican heritage.
 
What The Dickens: A Tribute to John Dankworth and the Big Band (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 25th July) traces a journey that stretches back to the formation of the Dankworth Seven in 1950 and tips a hat to one of the late John Dankworth’s landmark suites of the 1960s. It explores decades of delightfully melodic and invariably swinging music, created by a master of jazz composition whose deep love for the jazz tradition combined with a quintessentially English wit. A specially formed band led by John’s bassist son Alec includes many artists closely associated with Dankworth bands down the years, including Henry Lowther, Mark Nightingale, Andy Panayi, Tim Garland and Jim Hart.  Cleo Laine – who first joined the Dankworth band in 1951 – hosts a very special night that celebrates the art of a defining figure in British jazz and tells the story which began at the time of the Festival of Britain.
 
The legacy of saxophonist Joe Harriott has been profound and lasting. Arriving in London from his native Jamaica in 1951 he embraced the London bebop scene before creating a form of free jazz in the late 1950s which paved the way for the changes that characterised jazz in the 1960s and beyond. His fiercely independent spirit continues to fire successive generations, explored by one of today’s most inventive composer/performers, fellow saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 26th July), last heard at Southbank Centre launching his brilliant CD “The New Emancipation”. The concert coincides with the second edition of Alan Robertson’s landmark biography of Harriott, “Fire in His Soul” (Northway Publications).
 
GREAT BRITISH JAZZ – LISTINGS
 
EVAN PARKER*
The Freedom Principle: 50 Years of British Impro
Tuesday 19th July, Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.45pm, Tickets £15 £10
 
Tomorrow’s Warriors Jazz Orchestra
Plays The Music Of Steve Williamson
Saturday 23rd July, Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.45pm, Tickets £13
This concert also forms part of the London Is The Place For Me weekend, celebrating some of the seminal moments in black British music.
 
A TRIBUTE TO JOHN DANKWORTH AND THE BIG BAND*
What the Dickens?
Monday 25th July, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £25 £20 £10
 
SOWETO KINCH EVOKES THE SPIRIT OF JOE HARRIOTT*
Abstract
Tuesday 26th July, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.30pm, Tickets £20 £10
 
*Produced in association with Serious
 
Southbank Centre
0844 847 9944
www.southbankcentre.co.uk/meltdown