Sunday May 23, 2021

Lost Recordings No 21

The BBC Jam Sessions from New York, 1938/39

Sent in by John Westwood


18/04/21 - I've just found another 'lost tape' - and since it's by someone who was born up your way thought you might like to hear it. - John


In November 1938 and January 1939, the BBC relayed two American Jam Sessions from New York to Britain. Regarded as historic by critics and producers, the live relays broke from BBC tradition in their presentation of improvised jazz and in their production as “informal parties.” Both broadcasts featured Alistair Cooke as announcer and “a galaxy of swing stars” (including Sidney Bechet, Teddy Wilson, and Tommy Dorsey) assembled by the New York bandleader Joe Marsala; however, British jazz enthusiasts responded to them very differently. Whereas the second session was widely praised, the first session inspired controversy, particularly after a leading critic deemed it a “washout.”

Click here to listen

Alistaire Cooke, of   'Letters from America'  fame, was born Alfred Cooke in Salford, Lancashire, England, the son of Mary Elizabeth (Byrne) and Samuel Cooke. His father was a Methodist lay preacher and metalsmith by trade; his mother's family were of Irish Protestant origin.

"He was educated at Blackpool Grammar School, Blackpool and won a scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he gained an honours degree (2:1) in English. He was heavily involved in the arts, was editor of Granta, and set up the Mummers, Cambridge's first theatre group open to both sexes, from which he notably rejected a young James Mason, telling him to stick to architecture. Cooke changed his name to Alistair when he was 22, in 1930". - courtesy Wikipedia


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