SOHO SCENE ’66 ‘67-JAZZ GOES MOD.

Soho Scene ’66 ’67-Jazz Goes Mod.

Label: Rhythm & Blues Records.

During 1966, the mods with their carefully cultivated image were still a familiar sight and sound in towns and cities the length and breadth of Britain as they rode around on their Lambretta or Vespa scooters. They still sported tailor-made suits, button-down collar shirts, thin ties, wool and cashmere jumpers which were protected by fishtail parkas and continued to wear desert boots, Chelsea boots and bowling shoes. However, by 1966 the mods had also started to wear Beatle boots, Fred Perry polo shirts and were growing their hair longer while some even experimented with makeup, as their image started to change. It seemed nothing stayed the same, not even the music that the mods listened to.

Musically, mods had eclectic taste in music by 1966, and had embraced American R&B and soul music in the early sixties, and especially singles that were released on Stax, Atlantic Records and Tamla Motown. Soon, mods were investigating some of the smaller American soul labels looking for oft-overlooked hidden gems during their regular trips to local record shops where they ordered imports and discovered new musical genres. 

This included ska and reggae, which the mods had discovered whilst looking through the racks of new arrivals and imports. While  the mods enjoyed soul, R&B, reggae and ska, they didn’t turn their back on British music and enjoyed pop and rock music and especially the Rolling Stones, The Who, Small Faces and The Kinks, who were perceived as “mod” groups. These future giants of British music were part of the new and eclectic soundtrack that the mods were listened to during 1966.

1966 was also an important year year for Britain. The Labour government had been reelected on the ‘31st’ March and increased its majority to 96 seats. This led to a renewed sense of hope, and on the ‘15th’ of April, Time magazine used the phrase “Swinging London” for the first time. It was the perfect description of what was then one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world. For mods living in the Britain’s cultural capital this was an exciting time and they frequented the new clubs that had opened and embraced the changes in fashion and music.

By 1966, Manchester’s music scene was thriving, and many mods made their way to  the Twisted Wheel nightclub where they were able to listen to soul music and from 1965, were enjoying what were initially billed as an “All-Niter.” Many mods made their way to the various venues to watch the local groups whose star was in the ascendance and the major names who  played in the city. Some may have been at the  Manchester Free Trade Hall on the ‘17th’ of May when Bob Dylan made history when he plugged-in. This prompted a cry of  “Judas” from a member of the audience. They couldn’t understand that Bob Dylan’s music and the times they were a changing.

On the ‘30th’ of July  Swinging London and the rest of England came to a standstill as England played West Germany in the World Cup Final. After extra-time, England won 4-2 and history was made. That night Londoners, including many sharp dressed mods celebrated this historic victory.

Six days later The Beatles released their classic album Revolver on the ‘5th’ of August. It was a landmark album as it marked the start of the group’s psychedelic period. This cerebral and thought-provoking album  reflected their interest in LSD, the avant-garde and Eastern philosophy and dealt with subjects like death and transcendence from material concerns. Revolver was also a much more ambitious and experimental album because The Beatles had decided to stop playing live. They knew they wouldn’t  need to replicate Revolver live and played their last concert at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, on the ‘29th’ of August. It was the end of era for The Beatles and their fans. However, their  music and music in general continued to evolve and the psychedelic revolution was underway.

1966 was an the year of the Mini Cooper, miniskirts, a World Cup Win and saw homegrown British groups provide the soundtrack to Swinging London which was about to embrace fully the psychedelic revolution.

As 1966 game way to 1967, the mods were still interested in soul, ska, R&B, reggae, rock and pop and passionate about modern jazz.  However, the psychedelic revolution was well underway and it wasn’t long until the Summer of Love in Britain and America. By then, the mods had already  embraced a number of aspects of the new culture. Some mods even grew their hair and  embraced the avant-garde while others experimented with psychedelic drugs including LSD. The other change was the music they were listening to.

This included jazz, which had been , and was still such an important part in their lives. Especially British jazz which spoke to the sharp dressed mods and helped define them. By 1967, many top British jazz musicians and bandleaders decided it was time for their music to change and they needed to loosen their collective collars. They realised that if their music didn’t evolve it risked becoming irrelevant and decided to incorporate different genres into their music. This included everything from R&B, Latin and avant-garde to psychedelia. The majority of top British jazz musicians embraced the changes in jazz and enjoyed the next chapter in their musical career.  Those that didn’t watched as their career stalled. However, for the majority of British jazzers 1967 was another important year for them.

Meanwhile, happenings grew in popularity across Swinging London where there was an increase in interest in the avant-garde, Eastern culture and LSD.  Free love was the order of the day and  hippies shunned materialism and their slogan was peace and love. Two of the most important albums of 1967 The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. Music was changing fast.

And this included jazz. Proof of this is Soho Scene ’66 ’67-Jazz Goes Mod which is a new four disc box set that has just been released by Rhythm & Blues Records. It looks back at what was an important time for British jazz.

By 1966, many of the original modernists had just turned forty and perfectly placed to enjoy what was a golden year for British modern jazz. Venues were packed and some of the top British jazz musicians returned with new albums that found their music evolving.  These familiar faces feature on disc one of Soho Scene ’66 ’67-Jazz Goes Mod and are joined by what will be new names to those who aren’t so well versed in British jazz.

Disc One-British Jazz 1966.

There’s eighteen tracks on disc one of Soho Scene ’66 ’67-Jazz Goes Mod which opens with Humphrey Lyttelton’s The Men From Auntie which made its debut on Soho Scene ’66 Vol 2. Welcome additions include the Mike Carr Trio’s Cox’s Pippin, the Tubby Hayes Quartet’s Change of Setting and The Don Rendell / Ian Carr Quintet’s Tootin’ And Flutin’.  These tracks will be new to many jazz fans. So will  the Stan Tracey Quartet’s Pig and Pepper, Michael Garrick’s Shiva and John Surman Quartet’s Blues Da Camera which show the changing face of British jazz in 1966. It’s a similar case with Alex Welsh’s Bluesology and Neil Ardley’s Big P. These tracks show how British jazz music was changing and some of its leading lights were combining  other genres of music to their usual sound and had been inspired by the changes in wider culture. It was a similar case in America.

Disc Two-American Jazz 1966.

The twenty-two tracks on disc two are eclectic selection and opens with the soul-jazz of Freddie MCoy’s Lonely Avenue. There’s more soul-jazz from the Charles Earland Trio’s The Dozens, Richard “Groove” Holmes’ Boo-D-Doo, The Three Sounds’ Mohair Sam, Freddie Roach’s One Track Mind and Jimmy McGriff’s Hallelujah. Hungarian jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo contributes Mizrab and is joined by South African reed player Hugh Masekela whose Unhlanhla featured on his The Americanization Of Ooga Booga album in 1966. Disc two features a couple of hidden gems  including Eric Kloss’ Just For Fun-K from his album Love and All That Jazz and the Milt Sealey Trio’s Black Diamond. They’re a reminder of some of the jazz that was being released in America during 1966 and was part of the soundtrack to British modernist’s lives.

Disc Three-British Jazz 1967.

By 1967, British jazz continued to evolve and some of its biggest names returned to the studio. This included English jazz pianist, composer,  arranger and bandleader Harry South went on to record library music. However, in 1967 the Harry South Big Band recorded Limited Freedom which is a reminder of one the giants of jazz at the peak of his powers. He’s not alone.

Other notable contributions on disc three from some British jazz’s leading lights including  from The Mike Carr Quartet’s Nico’s Dream, the Tubby Hayes Quartet’s Finky Minky, the Joe Harriott Quintet’s Strollin’ South and Everywhere Derriere by the Stan Tracey Quartet. They’re a reminder of how healthy British jazz was in 1967 and how its leadings lights were continuing to make ambitious and innovate music which the modernists embraced and enjoyed.

Disc Four-American Jazz 1967.

Across the Atlantic, American jazz was changing and changing fast. Fusion was the new kid on the block and rode to the rescue of jazz whose popularity had been declining. That was despite many American jazz musicians continuing to release exciting and ambitious releases. Many of these albums drew inspiration from other genres and other combined disparate genres.

That was the case with Curtis Amy’s album Mustang which featured bop and modal jazz. One of the highlights was the cover of Mustang which was a perfect showcase for the Houston-born saxophonist’s skills. 

When Jerome Richardson covered Sunny for his Groove Merchant album in 1967 he combined  funk, fusion and even easy listening to create a truly memorable track. Then Chico O’Farrill and His Orchestra’s Hip  Hug Her heads in the direction of Latin jazz while Byrdie Green’s In The Dark from her The Golden Thrush Strikes At Midnight combos R&B and soul-jazz. Both are underrated tracks and welcome additions to Soho Scene ’66 ’67-Jazz Goes Mod. The can be said of Johnny “Hammond” Smith’s hidden soul-jazz gem Dirty Apple which was the B-Side to his single N.Y.P.D.

Other welcome additions included Johnny Lytle Quintet’s Gonna Get That Boat and  the Harold Johnson’s single Sorry ‘Bout That where jazz, Latin, funk and soul melt seamlessly into one to provide a dancefloor filler. Closing this seventy-eight track box set is the Soul Society’s cover of the Lee Morgan classic The Sidewinder. It’s the perfect way to close this look back at two important years in not just the history of jazz, but music, culture and modernism which was still going strong.

By 1966, it was no longer just modern jazz that provided the soundtrack to the modernists daily lives. They had also discovered and embraced soul, ska, R&B, reggae, rock and pop. Still, though, the mods were still passionate about modern jazz during 1966 which in Britain was a golden age for the genre.

Meanwhile, music was changing and it was official trad jazz was yesterday’s sound, with modern jazz surpassing its one time rival in the popularity stakes. Some trad jazz musicians  had turned their back on trad jazz and embraced modern jazz. They had watched as music changed and knew that they couldn’t rest on their laurels.

In Britain’s cultural capital Swinging London the psychedelic revolution was underway and 1967 was  the Summer of Love in America and Britain. By then, jazz music just like the mods would have changed.

Everything from the clothes that the mods wore, to they way they wore their hair and even the drugs that they took started to change. So did the music that they listened to, but still their passion for modern jazz remained. That was the case during 1966 and 1967 the period that Soho Scene ’66 ’67-Jazz Goes Mod box set covers when the sharp dressed modernists embraced the cultural revolution in Britain. 

Modernism was  popular  until the late-sixties and there was a mod revival in the late-seventies in Britain, and the early eighties in America. The mods with their carefully cultivated image and their discerning taste in music including the seventy-eight tracks on the Soho Scene ’66 ’67-Jazz Goes Mod box set are without doubt one the one of the most enduring and influential youth cults in British cultural history, and their influence continues to make its presence felt even today.

Soho Scene ’66 ’67-Jazz Goes Mod.

5 Comments

  1. Jazz Goes Mod. I know quite a few tracks. May have to buy the CD to get all the tracks in one place. Lol.

    • It’s frustrating having a pile of LPs and singles when you can get everything on a box set. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy and if you buy from the label they’ll give you fifth disc free. I’ve a number of their releases including a Harry South box set.

      I really enjoyed the two discs of British jazz which I sometimes think is underrated compared to American jazz. During the sixties we had some wonderful jazz musicians including Tubby Hayes, Ian Car and Stan Tracey.

      • I’ll definitely put it on my to buy (soon) list.

      • I’m sure you’ll enjoy it when you buy it. The Bruton compilation I reviewed today is also worth looking out for. And the two Blue Note reissue from today. There’s a lot of good music out just now.

      • 👍🏿👍🏿

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