New study on Black British Jazz

BBJ cover imageGeorge McKay writes: I’m very pleased to be part of a notable new book, Black British Jazz: Routes, Ownership and Performance, edited by Jason Toynbee, Catherine Tackley (co-organiser of our wonderful RC2014 conference in Amsterdam) and Mark Doffman, in which I go back to look again at the 1950s pianist, chart-topper, and television presenter, Winifred Atwell. My chapter is called ‘Winifred Atwell and her “other piano”: 16 hit singles and “a blanket of silence”, sounding the limits of jazz’. You can find information about all the chapters for the entire collection at the Black British Jazz contents page, while below is the book’s blurb:

Black British musicians have been making jazz since around 1920 when the genre first arrived in Britain. This groundbreaking book reveals their hidden history and major contribution to the development of jazz in the UK. More than this, though, the chapters show the importance of black British jazz in terms of musical hybridity and the cultural significance of race. Decades before Steel Pulse, Soul II Soul, or Dizzee Rascal pushed their way into the mainstream, black British musicians were playing jazz in venues up and down the country from dance halls to tiny clubs. In an important sense, then, black British jazz demonstrates the crucial importance of musical migration in the musical history of the nation, and the links between popular and avant-garde forms. But the volume also provides a case study in how music of the African diaspora reverberates around the world, beyond the shores of the USAa??the engine-house of global black music. As such it will engage scholars of music and cultural studies not only in Britain, but across the world.

And here is a link to the Google Book version of the collection (but do buy it / order it for your library)

[Extract from introduction to George’s chapter] … From Tunapuna, Trinidad, Winifred Atwell (c. 1914-1983) was a classically trained ragtime and boogie-woogie style pianist who gained quite remarkable popularity in Britain, and later also Australia, in the 1950s, in live and recorded music, as well as in the developing television industry. In this chapter I outline her extraordinary international musical biography as a chart-topping pop and television star – innovative achievements for a black migrant female musician which are arguably thrown into more dramatic light by virtue of the fact that Atwell has been Wiinifred Atwell and her 'other piano' with rhythm accompaniment (no. 1, 1954)and remains a neglected figure in media and popular music (let alone jazz) history. I pay particular attention to her performative tactics and repertoire, developing material I introduced first in Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain. But our interest in Atwell should stem not only from her position as a significant figure neglected by history, for she speaks also to definitional issues of jazz. The chapter progresses into a discussion of the extent to which Atwell is a limit case of jazz in the developing pop world of the 1950s on….

Atwell topped the British singles charts twice, with 14 other top-30 singles during the 1950s, and she was also the first black million-selling singles artist in British pop history. Most of these achievements were the result of her playing jazz-derived instrumental music (solo or with a trio or quartet: piano-guitar-bass-drums). (Here you can read an interview I did with her drummer from the period, Colin Bailey.) Hers was a striking early example of a multiplatform media and music success: prestigious live performances and international tours, hit records, pop-jazz and classical repertoires, radio broadcasts, sheet music and piano instruction book sales, television presenter fronting her own series (on both main British channels and in Australia), and film appearances on screen and in the soundtrack….

Congratulations to Dr Tom Sykes

At the University of Salford graduation ceremony yesterday at The Lowry, Salford Quays, UK, Dr Tom Sykes, a PhD student on the original Rhythm Changes project, was awarded his PhD.  Tom’s thesis is entitled Jazz for the I-Pod Generation. Here he is receiving his award. Many congratulations, Dr Sykes. You can view the ceremony here.

Profs Tony Whyton and George McKay win University of Salford research excellence award for Rhythm Changes project

We’re delighted to announce that, at the annual University Day celebration this week, Profs Tony Whyton and George McKay won the University of Salford’s Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award for 2014. This was for the Rhythm Changes: European Jazz and National Identities research project (2010-13), that brilliantly stimulating and massively creative and fun three-year jazz jaunt, caravanserai, parade, around the New (Euro-)Jazz Studies, with partners from Graz, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Birmingham, and Stavanger, musicians, artists, festivals, academics, archivists. Yes, that project was an absolute blast – and it’s still going of course, for we have the 3rd international Rhythm Changes conference, Beyond Jazz Borders, this September at Amsterdam Conservatory to look forward to.

It’s great to get such recognition from Salford, the university that led the project. Here’s what the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Martin Hall (left, in photo below) , had to say at University Day, which was attended by 400 colleagues from across the institution.

The University of Salford is nothing without its people. Everyone has a part to play in making the University – the vibrant, pioneering and, above all, warm and welcoming institution that it is. Without you, this University would be little more than bricks and mortar. It is you who bring these buildings to life with your passion, your endless enthusiasm, your dreams, your focus on our students, your curiosity, thirst for knowledge, the need to find answers and a desire to change lives.

Carnivalising Pop: Music Festival Cultures symposium programme, Salford UK, 13 June 2014

Here is the finalised programme for the symposium, which includes jazz festivals and several contributions from the Rhythm Changes team. Further information, including directions and registration information, is here.

Friday 13 June 2014, The Old Fire Station, University of Salford

9:30 – 9:50: Arrival and Coffee

9:50 – 10:00: Welcome and introduction – Professor George McKay, University of Salford

10:00 – 10:45: Keynote 1 – Dr Gina Arnold, Stanford University
Race, space, and representation at American rock festivals

10:45 – 12:15: Session 1 – Aspects of and developments in festival culture

Dr Nicholas Gebhardt, Birmingham City University
Rock festivals of the transatlantic counterculture

Dr Anne Dvinge, University of Copenhagen
Musicking in Motor City: reconfiguring urban space at the Detroit Jazz Festival

Dr Roxanne Yeganegy, Leeds Metropolitan University
No Spectators! Burning Man, boutique festivals and the art of participation

12:15 – 1:00: Lunch

Includes screening of short film, “Carnivalising the Creative Economy: AHRC-funded Research on and with British Jazz Festivals” (dir. Gemma Thorpe, 2014)

1:00 – 2:30: Session – Mediating, Performing and Technologising the Festival

Dr Mark Goodall, University of Bradford

Out of Sight: the mediation of the music festival
Dr Rebekka Kill, Leeds Metropolitan University
The artist at the music festival: visual art, performance and hybridity

Dr Andrew Dubber, Birmingham City University
Music Technologism: innovation, collaboration and participation at the festival of music ideas

2:30 – 3:15: Keynote 2 – Alan Lodge, veteran festivals photographer and travellers activist

Discussion and showing of some key photographs of festivals, New Travellers and alternative culture in Britain since the late 1970s

3:15 – 3:30: Coffee Break

3:30 – 4:15: Session 3 – How to Make a Popular Music Festival

Ben Robinson, director, Kendal Calling festival

Danny Hagan, co-founder, Green Man festival

4:15 – 5:45: Session 4 – From Festivals to Arenas

Professor Robert Kronenburg, University of Liverpool
From Shed to Venue: The Architecture of Popular Music Performance

Dr Emma Webster, Oxford Brookes University
The role of promoters at arena shows: a case study of Stereophonics at Glasgow’s SECC arena

Dr Ben Halligan, University of Salford
Skanky Shamanism: Sensual Audience Participation and the Miley Cyrus “Bangerz” Arena Tour

5:45 – 6:00pm: Close

Cheltenham Jazz Festival AHRC talks

The Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is currently a partner of the Cheltenham Festivals, and organises a set of public lectures and panel talks by AHRC-funded researchers at each of the four festivals (jazz, music, literature, science) through the year.

Professor George McKay has worked with Cheltenham Jazz Festival and the AHRC to curate the series of talks at this year’s festival. There are three talks (information taken from festival website):

  • “Denys Baptiste: Struggle and Liberation.” Saturday 3 May, 6-7 pm. The history of jazz is inseparable from the struggle for racial equality and Denys Baptiste’s suite Now is the Time: Let Freedom Ring captures this in music. He talks to leading British jazz academic Professor Tony Whyton about how he drew from Dr. Martin Luther King’s powerful speech.
  • “What makes a jazz legend?” Sunday 4 May, 6.45-7.45 pm. What does it take for a jazz musician to become iconic? Professors McKay (AHRC Leadership Fellow) and Tony Whyton (Project Director, Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities) discuss how musicians made jazz history or got written out from Winifred Atwell to John Coltrane.
  • “The story of British jazz festivals”. Monday 5 May, 5-6 pm. Professor McKay (AHRC Leadership Fellow) leads a panel of festival organisers and researchers, including the Festival’s Programme Advisor Tony Dudley-Evans, as they trace the memories and significance of Britain’s jazz festivals, from their riotous origins at Beaulieu Jazz Festival in 1956 to today’s diverse festival scene. Also features Alison Eales, AHRC-funded PhD student, who holds a Collaborative Doctoral Award between the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Jazz Festival.

Here, again, since we’re on the subject, is the film we made recently about AHRC-funded collaborations between jazz festivals and academic researchers…

Cheltenham Festivals landscape

Thinking With Jazz II symposium, Lancaster Jazz Festival, 20 September 2013

Thinking With Jazz is a day-long symposium that takes place during the 2013 Lancaster Jazz Festival. This year, our panelists and keynote speakers include John Cumming (London Jazz Festival), Fiona Talkington (BBC Radio 3), Gerry Godley (Twelve Points Festival, Dublin), George McKay (University of Salford), Tim Wall (Birmingham City University), Kristin McGee (University of Groningen), Matt Robinson (Lancaster Jazz Festival), Pete Moser (More Music) and Tony Whyton (University of Salford).

Join them to discuss a range of topics including festivals and social media, spaces and places, funding and programming, and artistic dreams and realities.

In the afternoon there will be an open workshop in which symposium participants collaborate on a Grow Your Own Festival resource. Our aim is to provide festival promoters and arts organisations with ideas and practical tools to design festivals which engage local communities in creative and meaningful ways.

This event is supported by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Enterprise Centre and the Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University.

For further information, please contact or

The symposium is free to attend, but early registration is necessary, as lunch will be provided. Go to the website here for further information and registration.

HERA The Time and the Place festival and conference, London, 30 May – 1 June

What is the connection between Bronze Age artefacts, European jazz, medieval manuscripts and photography which captures Europe’s complex colonial past? And how do artists as diverse as gipsy violinist Roby Farkas and his colleagues in the extrovert multi-national band Budapest Bár, or saxophonist/MC/rapper Soweto Kinch, or the hauntingly beautiful Sami voice of Mari Boine fit into the picture? These seemingly disparate subjects form part of The Time and the Place: Culture and Identity in Today’s Europe, a series of concerts and creative interventions from a Europe-wide choice of artists whose music acts as a counterpoint to the themes of a wide-ranging and fascinating group of research projects that reach their conclusion this year.

Members of the Rhythm Changes team are heavily involved in this quite outstanding set of events in London at the end of May, to mark the end of the current round of HERA projects. In fact our Project Leader, Prof Tony Whyton, has worked with HERA and Serious music promoters as lead organiser of much of the activities. There is a conference, panels, debate, presentations, posters and videos about the 19 HERA projects, with speakers from across Europe and worldwide. Also there is a wonderful series of music concerts, focused on national identity, international dialogue and transnational cultural exchange.

From Rhythm Changes, apart from Tony, Prof Walter van de Leur will be speaking about European culture, Prof Andrew Dubber about digital creativity, Prof George McKay about the public value of humanities (and jazz) research. Other team members will be in attendance and contributing in their characteristically lively and engaged manner! Tony and George will also be introducing the live evening concerts. Some of the events are free to the public, some are ticketed. It should be a terrific send-off for HERA 1, as well as a launch for HERA 2 projects. Events include:

Thursday 30 May

British Library, 9 am-5 pm
Final conference on the HERA joint research programme projects

King’s Place evening concert, 8 pm
Budapest Bar

Friday 31 May

King’s College, London, 1-3.30 pm
Cultural Dynamics and Creativity in Digital Europe seminar

King’s Place panel discussion, 6.15-7.30 pm
Does Research Matter? The Public Value of the Humanities

King’s Place evening concerts (two, choose one) 8 pm
Poul Hoxbro and Fraser Fifield
Soweto Kinch and Andreas Schaerer

Saturday 1 June

King’s Place HERA open day, from 10.30 am
feat. four public panels through the day, ideas, discussion, culture, just turn up

King’s Place evening concerts (two, choose one) 8 pm
Mari Boine
Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscea

All About Jazz reviews the Salford Rethinking Jazz Cultures conference

You know you must be doing something right when the jazz media starts reviewing academic events. Excellent! Here’s to more and deeper dialogue and collaboration between all critics, enthusiasts, and historians of the music. As reviewer Ian Patterson asks in his piece, just published here in the leading online magazine All About Jazz:

The study of jazz in academic institutions may be a relatively modern trend, but the presence of over a hundred academics from South Africa to Russia and from America to Portugal at the Rhythm Changes: Rethinking Jazz Cultures conference, at Media City UK, Salford, underlined that it’s an undeniably global phenomenon. It’s also a sign of the continuing evolution and maturation of historical, socio-political, anthropological and musicological perspectives on music that is more than a century long in the tooth. There may be some who feel that jazz and academia make for odd companions, mutually exclusive fields, but if academic scrutiny is good enough for poetry, literature, graphic art, cinema, theater and other forms of music, then why not jazz?

Quite. Why not. Knowledge exchange, in process.

Small awards for research at Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, USA

Each year the Institute of Jazz Studies awards up to ten grants of $1,000 each to assist jazz researchers. Half of the awards are designated for students in the Rutgers-Newark Master’s Program in Jazz History and Research and half are awarded to scholars from other institutions or unaffiliated researchers to enable them to visit IJS in conjunction with their projects. The Institute is a special collection of the John Cotton Dana Library on the Rutgers-Newark campus.

The Morroe Berger – Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund was established in 1987 with a gift by composer/arranger/multi-instrumentalist Benny Carter (1907-2003) in memory of Morroe Berger. Berger, a close friend and Carter’s biographer, was a professor of sociology at Princeton University until his death in 1981.

Carter’s initial gift was matched by the Berger family, who asked that Carter’s name be added to the Fund’s title. Benny Carter, his wife Hilma, and other donors have regularly added to the endowment over the years. To date, over 85 awards have been given to scholars and students worldwide working in a variety of disciplines, including jazz history, musicology, bibliography, and discography.

Rutgers Master’s Program Students:
Students currently enrolled in the Rutgers-Newark Master’s Program in Jazz History and Research. NOTE: Students must be nominated by a member of the Jazz Program faculty. Please contact Prof. Lewis Porter before submitting an application.

Jazz researchers at Rutgers or other institutions or non-affiliated researchers whose projects would benefit from the use of the research collections of the Institute of Jazz Studies.

Previous Berger-Carter award recipients are not eligible.

Send a brief (two-page maximum) resumé and a one-page description of your project and how this award and access to IJS collections will facilitate your research. Include your full contact information (email and mailing addresses). The resumé and one-page description should be sent as MS Word or pdf attachments to:

Applications are due by June 28, 2013. Awards will be announced by July 31, 2013.

For further information go here.