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Book: Jazz on BBC Radio 1922-1972

Chapter: Jazz Club, 1947-1974

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.38333


Jazz Club is the programme which dominated post-war British jazz broadcasting up to the point of the arrival of commercial radio in 1973. This chapter explores the attempts amongst the BBC’s Jazz Club production staff to accommodate and cohere the conflicting definitions of jazz which were inherited from the two decades of BBC programming charted in the previous chapters. The very name of the programme attempts to resolve these very different musical and cultural definitions by simultaneously evoking the jazz-as-folk record collector’s rhythm clubs and subversive location of the modernist small group bebop cellar club.

Jazz Club juxtaposed previously established ways of presenting jazz: episodes were initially presented as though ‘from the heart of London’s West End’ while later programmes expanded this metropolitan focus out to include regional jazz clubs/bands and separated coverage of trad and modern jazz, concentrating the latter within a regular ‘Jazz for Moderns’ feature. While previous chapters have traced the different discourses shaping jazz in Britain over specific time periods, this chapter takes an alternative approach, observing the changing and conflicting meanings of jazz that emerged within a single programme. In this way, trends that emerge through an analysis of Jazz Club are mapped in Chapters Four and Five onto the wider discussion of the period 1943-1974.

The chapter builds upon a full textual analysis of Jazz Club broadcasts, made possible through access to the British Library’s Krahmer-Newbrook Collection, and will represent the first academic study using this important archive of recordings. The study plots the thirty-year development of Jazz Club in relation to shifts in BBC music broadcasting policy such as the greater concentration of dance music on the Light Programme from 1957 onwards and the creation of BBC Radio 1 and 2 in 1967. The relationship between BBC radio and television programming of jazz also forms an important thread of the narrative. Changes in production crew and presenters is given as much attention as the types of music played. As in previous chapters, the degree to which the programming and presentation of jazz is shaped by the discursive constructions of The Radio Times, Melody Maker and dedicated jazz publications is explored in detail. In anticipation of a fuller discussion of European jazz identity in Chapter Five, this account of Jazz Club considers arguments about the emerging ‘British-ness’ of home produce jazz which can be seen across the thirty-year strand of BBC jazz broadcasting.

Chapter Contributors

  • Tim Wall ( - proftimwall) 'Birmingham City University'