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Trad Jazz Britannia

Trad Jazz Britannia

Fri May 24, 9-10pm, BBC4

By Phil Harrison

BBC4’s recent run of Friday night music documentaries give the feeling of a channel reaching for the grey pound. Hot on the heels of last week’s ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Britannia’ comes this jolly if largely inconsequential offering.

Trad jazz had a slightly ersatz quality encoded in its very DNA. At its very best, it slavishly copied the New Orleans style – breaking new ground wasn’t just unlikely but consciously frowned-upon. Instead, authenticity was the holy grail – witness Ken Colyer’s ruse to join the Navy in order to get to the Big Easy and see his heroes for himself. This culminated in the bizarre and hilarious Beaulieu Jazz Festival riot of 1960 and thankfully, in the rise of the beat groups of the following decade.

This is still an easy watch; essentially an hour of engagingly spry old chaps telling lively stories. But in musical and cultural terms, the whole phenomenon feels like a footnote.

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