Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain review – an invaluable compilation

<span>Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns</span>
Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns

For some time now, original British jazz albums dating from between about 1965 and 1972 have been changing hands at eye-watering prices. This was the period when a sudden eruption of new bands, with new sounds and new ideas, produced the first distinctly British jazz. Prominent amid the fuss were a bunch of young jazz composers – Mike Westbrook, Michael Gibbs, Neil Ardley, Michael Garrick and others, plus two seniors who led the way, John Dankworth and Stan Tracey. All these and more are represented in this double-album anthology.

The thing that strikes me, after listening to all 14 tracks in one go, is how diverse they are. There’s Garrick’s playfulness, Westbrook’s dramatic flair, Ardley’s delicacy, Tracey’s unmistakable touch of Ellington, and so on. As for the players, practically the whole London modern jazz scene of the day can be found here somewhere, and since music colleges didn’t teach jazz then, they’re individuals to a man (and woman). The album comes in CD and vinyl formats, with in-depth notes, including a brief history of modern jazz in Britain. And don’t worry, you won’t have to bid for it.