What was the public reaction to jazz when it began to appear in Britain in the aftermath of the First World War? What did early jazz sound like and how did British musicians learn to play in the style? How did British artists and designers react to the new rhythms and colours of the music? This talk explores how jazz arrived in Britain and the impact that it had on musicians, artists and the wider public.

The arrival of jazz resulted in a popular music revolution. Having been introduced through the lyrics of American songs, jazz was brought to life as a musical style through the transatlantic visits of American groups. It was rapidly adopted as the musical accompaniment to Britain’s reviving nightlife, inspiring innovative styles of social dance in underground nightclubs which were often the source of its controversial reputation. British musicians were keen to develop their jazz skills, taking opportunities to learn from visitors including Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.

The impact of jazz was not just confined to musicians and musical entertainment – it had a profound impact on British writers and artists including Evelyn Waugh, J. B. Priestley, C. R. W. Nevinson and Edward Burra. It soon became clear that jazz was more than the latest fad and elements were adopted by mainstream bands that played in newly constructed dance halls up and down the country. Radio and records were important in bringing jazz into the home. All this allowed jazz to become the defining popular music of the interwar era.


Professor Catherine Tackley is Head of the Department of Music at the University of Liverpool. A jazz specialist, she has written two books – ‘The Evolution of Jazz in Britain: c. 1880-1935’ (Ashgate, 2005) and ‘Benny Goodman’s Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert’ (OUP, 2012) - and co-edited ‘Black British Jazz: Routes, Ownership and Performance’ (Ashgate, 2014). In 2018, Catherine curated ‘Rhythm and Reaction: The Age of Jazz in Britain’, an acclaimed exhibition in London based on her research. She is Musical Director of Dr Jazz and the Cheshire Cats Big Band.

Venue: Landor Space

Doors: 7pm / Talk starts: 7.30pm.

*Please see venue website for admission (age restrictions) or accessibility information. Our talks may be filmed for promotional purposes.


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