Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod.

Label: Rhythm & Blues Records.

Ever since the birth of rock ’n’ roll, youth cults have come and gone,with some proving to be nothing more than passing fads, that nowadays, are mere footnotes in cultural history.There are some youth cults that have endured, and played an important part in British culture. However, none of the youth cults of the past sixty years have enjoyed the same longevity as the modernists. 

The modernists came to prominence in the late fifties, and their name came about because of their love of modern jazz which was celebrated on Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod which was released by Rhythm & Blues Records on Record Store Day 2018. It features twelve tracks from The Harry South Big Band, Ernest Ranglin Trio, The New Jazzmakers, Oscar Brown Jr, Larry “Wild” Wrice, Rune Overman Trio, Billy Higgins and Lionel Hampton. These tracks are a reminder of one of the most enduring youth cults, the modernists, who were soon to become the mods. However, music was only part of the story for the mods.

Image was everything for the mods who carefully tried to cultivate an air of coolness, and saw themselves as men about town. The mods often wore tailor-made suits which were sometimes made out of cashmere which usually featured narrow lapels. They also sported button-down collar shirts, thin ties and wool or cashmere jumpers. All this was part of the image for the mod around town. So too, were fishtail parkas, desert boots, Chelsea boots and bowling shoes which was part of the uniform for the self-respecting mod, who unlike members of most youth cults, even had their own mode of transport.

This was the scooter, and especially the Lambretta or Vespa scooters which quickly became the mods favoured mode of transport. This transported them around town as they visited their favourite haunts, which were dance-halls, coffee bars and cinemas. At cinemas, mods took to watching French and Italian films which was all part of a sense of continental coolness they were attempting to cultivate. Image was everything to the mod, and so was music, with the two going hand-in-hand.

By the 1960, music was starting to change in Britain was changing, but still modern jazz was hugely popular. That had been the case for much of the fifties. However, by the late-fifties, American bebop had started to influence many British jazz musicians, and this led to British jazz splitting in two.

On one side were the musicians who eschewed the changes in British jazz, and continued to play traditional jazz (trad jazz). They resisted and in some cases resented modern jazz, but before long, trad jazz would cease to be relevant and was no longer popular. It was seen as yesterday’s sound, unlike modern jazz. 

By 1960, many more British jazz musicians were embracing modern jazz, and turning their back on trad jazz. They had been influenced by bebop and realised that modern jazz was the future. British jazz was thriving, with Harry South, Tubby Hayes, Ian Carr, Tony Crombie and Hank Shaw all familiar faces on the British jazz scene alongside Jamaican born jazzers Joe Harriott.

Modern jazz was also the music of choice for the discerning mod, and provided the soundtrack to their evenings and weekends. Those that lived in London, would often head to Soho, which was home to many jazz clubs, while others headed to The Flamingo in Wardour Street, Ronnie Scott’s in Gerrard Street or The Marquee in Oxford Street. Some mods were lucky enough to see Miles Davis who played ten concerts in Britain during 1960. Others were left looking for his latest album which they were keen to add to their burgeoning collection of modern jazz.

Many mods made weekly pilgrimages to their local record shops where they searched for the latest modern jazz releases by the top American and British musicians. This includes the twelve tracks that feature on Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod.

Side One.

Opening Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod is The Harry South Big Band’s Southern Horizons, which bursts into life and is the perfect track to open the compilation. London born bandleader, composer and pianist Harry South may not be the biggest name on the compilation, but he enjoyed a long career and later in his career, wrote music for film, theatre and many television series. This includes his iconic theme to The Sweeney. However, that was still to come, and in 1960 Harry South was leading his Big Band who get Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod off to an explosive, joyous and memorable start.

By 1960, thirty-five year old bandleader, composer, drummer and occasional pianist and vibraphonist Tony Crombie was a familiar face on the British jazz scene, and often worked with many top jazz musicians. He had returned to jazz after a brief dalliance with rock ’n’ roll between 1956 and 1958, when he founded The Rockets which featured future Shadow Jet Harris. In 1958, The Rockets became a jazz group which featured pianist Stan Tracey, and in 1959 Tony Crombie formed Jazz Inc. A year later, Tony Crombie cowrote the soundtrack to the British horror film The Tell-Tale Heart in 1960, and led the Tony Crombie Orchestra when they recorded Samba De Janeiro which epitomises everything that was good about British jazz in 1960. That is no surprise as Tony Crombie became a stalwart of British jazz and enjoyed career that spanned six decades.

Guitarist and composer Ernest Raglin’s career began in the fifties, when he played on various calypso and mento releases which were recorded for the tourist market. This lead to him joining Cluett Johnson’s studio band Clue J and then the Blues Blasters, and later, recording several tracks for Coxsone Dodd at his Federal Studios. However, the first time many British mods heard Ernest Raglin was when they One For Picka which was released by the Ernest Raglin Trio in 1960, which showcases a truly talented jazz guitarist who plays with speed, fluidity and accuracy. Four years later, One For Picka featured on Ernest Raglin’s 1964 sophomore album Reflections which was released by Island Records.

Jazz pianist and composer Dill Jones was born in Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire, Wales, in 1923 and was already an experienced musicians by the time he formed The Dill Jones Trio.They had already released two EPs and two singles by the time the recorded and released Threesome in 1960. It’s a brisk piano led track, with bandleader Dill Jones taking centre-stage on this oft-overlooked hidden gem that was recorded live.

Cinematic describes The New Jazzmakers’ I’m Going which sounds as if it’s been recorded as part of a soundtrack. It’s also a melodic, ruminative and beautiful track that is a reminder of another musical era.

John Dankworth studied at the Royal College of Music, and when he was twenty-two played alongside Charlie Parker at the Paris career 1949. A year later, he formed the Dankworth Seven in 1950, which was the first of numerous bands he led. By 1960, John Dankworth he was a familiar face on the British jazz scene and was leading The John Dankworth Orchestra. They released the EP Soundtrack Music From ‘The Criminal’ on Columbia which featured the explosive and sometimes cinematic Treasure Drive which is tucked away on the B-Side and features Dudley Moore on piano.

Side Two.

In 1960, vocalist Oscar Brown Jr released his debut album Sina and Soul on Columbia, and it was the original album of two sides. The two sides to this album of soul-jazz are themed, with side one entitled Sin, and side two entitled soul. One of the tracks from Sin is But I Was Cool, which is a reminder of a charismatic and inimitable singer.

Another musicians releasing his debut album in 1960 was drummer Larry “Wild” Wrice, who released Wild!-The Big Big Sound Of Larry “Wild” Wrice  on Pacific Jazz Records which specialised  in cool jazz and West Coast jazz. Wild!-The Big Big Sound Of Larry “Wild” Wrice featured Husky, which was penned by Bob Bryant and released as a single in 1960. Sadly, neither Husky nor Wild!-The Big Big Sound Of Larry “Wild” Wrice found the audience it deserved, and Larry “Wild” Wrice never released another single or album. However, Husky is a welcome addition to Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod, and is a reminder of an underrated drummer and bandleader who never enjoyed the success his talented deserved.

Swedish jazz pianist and bandleader Rune Overman wrote Funky Festival, which he recorded with the Rune Overman Trio. When it was released on  Pacific Jazz Records, Rune Overman was twenty-eight and already an experienced musician. Sadly, the irresistible Funky Festival was the only single that the Rune Overman Trio released. However, Rune Overman led number of other bands, and became a familiar face on the Swedish jazz scene. 

Although Go To Hell is credited to Mr. Billy Paul, it’s actually a recording by future Philly Soul star Billy Paul. He recorded Go To Hell for the B-Side of the single Ebony Woman which was released on the New Dawn label. Mr. Billy Paul delivers a defiant, jazzy vocal on Go To Hell which is a tantalising taste of what was to come from the man who would go on to become one of greatest soul singers of his generation. 

Latin jazz percussionist Armando Peraza was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1924, and by the fifties was an international star. That was why he was asked to contribute a track to the album More Drums On Fire which was released on Pacific Jazz in 1960. The track he contributed was Triste, which finds George Shearing’s piano and Armando Peraza’s percussion playing leading roles in this timeless Latin jazz track.

Jazz drummer Billy Higgins was only twenty-four when he recorded Me and My Lover, which is an oft-overlooked soul-jazz hidden gem. It’s a welcome addition to Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod and is a reminder of a drummer who played with the great and good of jazz during his career.

Closing Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod and by 1960 is Wailin’ which was the B-Side to Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra single, Wild Bill. It was released on the Glad label in June 1960, and features a vibes masterclass from Lionel Hampton. He plays with speed, fluidity and accuracy on a track that deserved to fare better than a B-Side. It’s one of the highlights of Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod.

For the original mods, the music on Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod is sure to bring back memories of modern jazz that they listened to during their glory days. These tracks were part of the soundtrack to the lives of the original mods, and were then rediscovered during the mod revival in the seventies.  

By then, the music on Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod was just part of a larger musical soundtrack during the first mod revival. As the sixties progressed, mods embraced  everything from soul, R&B, reggae and ska, which beams part of the soundtrack to their lives. This was the case during the first mod revival in the seventies and subsequent mod revivals. However, for the original mods, modern jazz and the music on Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod is something they hold dear, and which brings back memories. 

For the original mods, the music on Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod is sure to bring back memories of wearing mohair suits, button down shirts, fishtail parkas and riding a Vespa to the coast on Bank Holiday weekends. During these long, hot holiday weekend in 1960, the mods enjoyed a soundtrack of the modern jazz, but never imagined that they were part of what would become one of the most important youth cults in British cultural history.

The modernist or mod movement has enjoyed an unrivalled longevity, and outlasted the majority of youth cults. Although there was only one mod revival in Britain in the late-seventies, and one in America in the late-eighties, parts of mod culture have endured since then. Especially some of the clothes, and of course the music, with compilations of mod or modernist music being regularly released. This includes Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod which is one of two  compilations of modern jazz that were released by Rhythm & Blues Records for Records Store Day 2018, and sure to bring back musical memories for former mods.

Soho Scene ’60 Jazz Goes Mod.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: