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An Unholy Row

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Awarded Certificate of Merit (2015) for BEST HISTORICAL RESEARCH IN RECORDED JAZZ by the The Association for Recorded Sound Collections

The post-war jazz revival marked the beginning of an independent British youth culture with music as its focus. Although it always remained a minority enthusiasm, jazz actually embodied the vaguely felt sentiments, dissatisfactions and aspirations of the post-war generation more fully than any other form of expression. Older people were, on the whole, indifferent or positively hostile to what was, for many, simply an ‘unholy row’.

In British society, class and culture were bound inextricably together, but jazz was an alien form with no obvious class affiliations. It was culturally neither ‘high’ nor ‘low’, and so found a ready welcome in a world where the old certainties were breaking down.

Throughout this period, jazz came in two more or less exclusive types - ‘revivalist’, which sought to recreate the classic jazz of the 1920s, and modern. Enthusiasts on both sides regarded their music as being more important than mere entertainment. In it they found a quality which they defined vaguely as ‘honesty’ or ‘sincerity’, which may perhaps be summed up as ‘authenticity’.

The book follows the development of both jazz tendencies over a decade and a half, paying particular attention to two outstanding figures: Humphrey Lyttelton and John Dankworth. It also seeks to convey a flavour of that now remote era and the frisson that jazz created.

Published: Mar 1, 2014


Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Dave Gelly
An Unholy Row Dave Gelly
Trumpet in a Handcart Dave Gelly
Austerity Stomp Dave Gelly
Welcome to Club Eleven! Dave Gelly
New Orleans to London Dave Gelly
Couth, Kempt and Shevelled Dave Gelly
Let’s Settle for Music Dave Gelly
Skiffle Dave Gelly
Six Months in a Palais . . . Dave Gelly
It’s Trad, Dad! Dave Gelly
Ominously into the Culture Belt Dave Gelly
Envoi Dave Gelly
Notes Dave Gelly
Bibliography Dave Gelly
Guide to Recordings
Guide to Recordings Dave Gelly
Index Dave Gelly

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2015 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence Certificate of Merit for Historical Recorded Sound Research in Jazz

I want to say how much I enjoyed Dave Gelly’s book. It’s well-written, gives an intelligent and informative summary of the period concerned, and is short and to the point, something to be welcomed in an age when big books seem to be taking over. It has a number of entertaining anecdotes, and there are relevant notes, a short but sufficient for the purpose bibliography, and a useful guide to available CDs. I’d recommend An Unholy Row to anyone wanting a brisk account of jazz in Britain in the 1940s and 1950s.
Jim Burns, Northern Review of Books

Not only compulsively readable and entertaining (packed as it is with anecdotes and perceptive pen portraits of the music’s characters) but also informative, even learned, enough to make it the most reliable guide yet published to a fascinating period in UK jazz history, a book that can be unreservedly recommended to anyone wishing to trace current British popular musical culture to its (often complex and subtle) roots in post-war jazz.

Humphrey Lyttelton, John Dankworth, Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott and Joe Harriott and just a few of the eminent names scattered throughout the absorbing text of this neat and fairly slim volume written by Dave Gelly - a venerable scribe whose own stalwart endeavours have woven him into the UK jazz tapestry. Gelly's account is naturally an analytically perceptive one, not least when it comes to handling the different hues of 'jazz' - such an all-embracing word.
The Beat

I enjoyed reading writer / musician Dave Gelly’s AN UNHOLY ROW: JAZZ IN BRITAIN AND ITS AUDIENCE 1945-1960 all the way through. I am a difficult audience for most books of jazz history that propose to cover a period of the music in a larger context (as opposed to a biography or autobiography). Gelly’s quick-moving book has many good stories in it, covering those intense years in 167 pages, but his tales are all wisely connected. I am now a Gelly convert, and want to read his other books. I predict you will, too.