Riffs de guitare rock ensablés dans le désert algérien, musique pop-rock chantée en arabe, voilà ce qui constitue l'étonnant cocktail Temenik Electric. Retrouvez-les en tournée sur toute la France !
From Jazz Funk & Fusion to Acid Jazz -The History of the UK Jazz Dance Scene
“He was DJing in a corner, challenging the dancers with Coltrane, Palmieri, chants to the Orisha of the Yoruba,” recalls African-American cultural historian Robert Farris Thompson in the introduction to this long awaited book. Describing his first trip to the author and DJ Mark ‘Snowboy’ Cotgrove’s Hi-Hat club in the late 90s, the critic captures the jazz dance scene in full flight. “Young men and women on the floor unleashed lightning fast footwork. One danced up the wall like Donald O’Connor. Several broke to the floor a la Bronx. Two came down in splits like the Nicholas Brothers…But at the same time, they were not copying Black America but minting something new.”
Beginning in the mid 70s at clubs like Lacy Lady in Essex and Crackers in Wardour Street (when punks and soulboys collided in a riotous display of “lime green pegs, a yellow mohair jumper, green plastic sandals”) through to the hardcore and infamous dance sessions at The Electric Ballroom in Camden and the Berlin club in Manchester in the early 80s (when dance crews like IDJ and The Jazz Defektors battled for supremacy), the author follows this fiercely underground scene as it grows from a cult to a culture right across the UK, eventually going overground with Acid Jazz in the early 90s.
The journey was a labour of love for both author Snowboy, who spent ten years collating the extensive interviews that form the main part of the book, and for publisher Paul Bradshaw of Straight No Chaser magazine, who began to chronicle this forgotten scene after being told by his then editor at The Wire magazine that he “didn’t believe people should dance to jazz”. Unlike in America where the jazz scene has largely neglected the dance based roots of the music (focusing on a purely cerebral response to the music rather than a physical one, and forgetting about Congo Square and The Savoy Ballroom), young black kids across the UK heard their calling in the tribal drumming of Art Blakey and the deep modality of McCoy Tyner. At the same time, while they soaked up the hard bop from the 60s, unlike mainstream critics who sidelined the 70s into a footnote of jazz history, for these young dance obsessives the fusion years provided the most fertile ground for self-expression, where forgotten album tracks were recontextualised in a way never imagined by the people who made the music.
IDJ (I Dance Jazz)
Not only is the book a valiant attempt to fill the gap left by previous studies of UK dance culture, where the jazz scene was largely forgotten, it is also one of the first to focus on the role of the dancers. In doing so it provides an intimate yet critical study of those young men for whom the dancefloor became a sanctuary from Thatcher’s Britain. Inspired by Steven Lora’s study on Tito Puente ‘The King of Latin Music’ told via a series of interviews, Snowboy lets the story unfold bit by bit through the various recollections of both DJs and more importantly the dancers. “Personally, I have great interest in the dancers and their unique styles, and felt that it’s just as important to put their stories and opinions across as the DJs,” the author explains. So while we get insightful interviews with key spinners such as Gilles Peterson in London (who more than anyone helped push this scene into the public consciousness) and Colin Curtis in Manchester (whose transition from Northern Soul to jazz funk and disco at The Blackpool Mecca was typical of how the key players on this scene never played safe) some of the most insightful and interesting interviews are with dancers. People like Steve ‘Afro’ Edwards whose recollections of his youth encapsulate what this culture came to mean for those who braved the floor: “When I knew I was a Jazz man I started going to Crackers with George Power. He played this fast jazz tune and I was dancing looking down and when I looked up, I saw a big circle of a hundred people watching me and I got shy. People started clapping me and a realised I had a skill.”
The author is as passionate as the dancers about finally documenting their scene, but the story, while heavy on detail, never gets lost in its subject matter. As well as being helped by some heavy doses of humour the book succeeds because what Snowboy has ultimately produced is the forgotten history of UK dance culture. It certainly provides a deep chronicle of the various developments in this underground culture, but it’s much more than a niche story about jazz dancers. It also shows how the scene cross pollinated with other movements in this incredibly fertile period for youth culture in the UK, whether it was punk in the late seventies or Acid House in the late eighties. And that makes this an essential read for anyone with a passing interest in what makes the heart of young Britain beat, as well as those for whom jazz means more than a neatly categorised Ken Burns documentary.
From Jazz Funk and Fusion to Acid Jazz - The History of the UK Jazz Dance Scene
by Mark ‘Snowboy’ Cotgrove is out now
A one-off book launch special (complete with sprung dancefloor):
Beyond the Ballroom – A Celebration of UK Jazz Dance
DJs: Gilles Peterson + Snowboy
Live: The Mighty Jeddo + Dilanga
Sunday 19 July 3.30pm Cargo, London
Produced by the Barbican in association with Edge09
Part of BLAZE 09
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