The Evolution of Jazz in Britain, 1880–1935: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Evolution of Jazz in Britain, 1880–1935

1st Edition

By Catherine Tackley (née Parsonage)


322 pages

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As a popular music, the evolution of jazz is tied to the contemporary sociological situation. Jazz was brought from America into a very different environment in Britain and resulted in the establishment of parallel worlds of jazz by the end of the 1920s: within the realms of institutionalized culture and within the subversive underworld. Tackley (née Parsonage) demonstrates the importance of image and racial stereotyping in shaping perceptions of jazz, and leads to the significant conclusion that the evolution of jazz in Britain was so much more than merely an extension or reflection of that in America. The book examines the cultural and musical antecedents of the genre, including minstrel shows and black musical theatre, within the context of musical life in Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Tackley is particularly concerned with the public perception of jazz in Britain and provides close analysis of the early European critical writing on the subject. The processes through which an evolution took place are considered by looking at the methods of introducing jazz in Britain, through imported revue shows, sheet music, and visits by American musicians. Subsequent developments are analysed through the consideration of modernism and the Jazz Age as theoretical constructs and through the detailed study of dance music on the BBC and jazz in the underworld of London. The book concludes in the 1930s by which time the availability of records enabled the spread of 'hot' music, affecting the live repertoire in Britain. Tackley therefore sheds entirely new light on the development of jazz in Britain, and provides a deep social and cultural understanding of the early history of the genre.


'Catherine Parsonage has written the definitive history of jazz in Britain. And it's a great story! Having lived for many years in an American jazz cocoon, I was continually amazed by the multiple responses to the music in the British Isles. And Parsonage's compelling narrative makes it all the more vivid.' Krin Gabbard, Professor of Comparative Literature, State University of New York ’…a book so supremely important … two hundred and sixty superbly researched pages … an incomparable treatise, bursting with authenticated and cited references… I really can't recommend this book too highly. Its research sources (cited page by page) are impeccable; its style is readable, its index comprehensive and its information both new and vital. Catherine Parsonage has done British jazz an inestimable favour … In my view, very few jazz books anywhere can surpass this one for excellence… an essential addition to the existing bibliography of our music's formative years…’ Digby Fairweather, Jazz Rag 'In what is certain to become the standard work on the subject, Dr Parsonage highlights both the innovations which were beginning to attract the attention of some musicians, and the wider cultural connotations of the term "jazz" … she has uncovered a rich seam of historical materials which offer fresh perspectives on the early development of jazz in the UK.' Jazz UK 'Overall, Parsonage’s book is a great contribution to our knowledge of jazz, and a much-needed text as far as Britain is concerned. Important as America was, and still is, in the development of the genre, Britain’s history is a fascinating one. And this serious, important, well-researched book is surely the best way of learning it.' MusicWeb International 'Parsonage’s eminently readable history of jazz in turn-of-the-centuries Britain debunks the notion that Europe has been a uniformly enthusiastic haven for jazz appreciation. For readers who are unfamiliar with the murky beginnings of jazz, Pa

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. Part I Historical and Theoretical Perspectives: The cultural and musical antecedents of jazz in Britain; The evolving image of jazz in Britain in sheet music; The 'Jazz Age' in Britain. Part II The Evolving Presence of Jazz in Britain: In Dahomey: A Negro Musical Comedy; The music and symbolism of the banjo; The original Dixieland jazz band and the southern syncopated orchestra; Dance music, the 'Plantation Revues' and the 'Underworld of London'; Hot jazz: Jack Hylton, Bert Firman and Fred Elizalde; Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Dr Catherine Tackley is Lecturer in Music at The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General