Black British Swing : The African Diaspora’s Contribution to England’s Own Jazz of the 1930s and 1940s


BBC Topic CD front cover

We may not all be mates but we are brothers and sisters, increasingly dipping into the same bowl of cultural delicacies as opportunity affords.  Along the way there are self-appointed gatekeepers who don’t want the recipes altered.  But there will always be enlightened outsiders with new spices and the gumbo we know as jazz will be better for it.

The players whose lives are unpacked here happened to black and were very popular in their day because they formed a solidly swinging community.  For the evidence, a CD, Black British Swing, was published in 2001 on Topic Records TSCD 781, compiled from a larger collection at the British Library, whose catalogue of enormous holdings is available online.  The disc is out of print but used copies and download are easily found.

While this jumble was researched with a smidgen of scholarly approach, the intention was to clear a vividly…

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One thought on “Black British Swing : The African Diaspora’s Contribution to England’s Own Jazz of the 1930s and 1940s

  1. Thanks much. I couldn’t get it published but just as well that no imprint lost money on it. Out of nowhere came a BBC producer who made a one-hour doc on the story, SWINGING INTO THE BLITZ (2013), and so I gave them my text and photos. I recommend the Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan’s HALF BLOOD BLUES (2013), not for period jazz accuracy (although it has that) but for her getting the brothers’ attitudes right. It’s a real bonding novel of warmth, annoyance and disappointment, with the guys not threatening or willfully humiliating each other. Another fab one is S.I. Martin’s INCOMPARABLE WORLD (1997), a late 18thC journey in which black mates behave brotherly as brothers often do. Both funny and sad, this book put its arm round my shoulder and years later I still feel it.


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