Joshua Reynolds when he returned from his painter’s apprenticeship in Rome picked up a copy of Samuel Johnson’s biography of Richard Savage and read it “while he was standing with his arm leaning against a chimney-piece. It seized his attention so strongly, that, not being able to lay down the book until he had finished, when he attempted to move, he found his arm totally benumbed”.
I had no mantle piece on which to rest my arm but on numerous train journeys whilst reading an Unholy Row I nearly missed all my stops. An Unholy Row brings to life vividly the jazz and wider cultural scene of the late 1940s and 1950s and captures the antipathy of an older generation towards a younger generation who were finding their own identity that rejected the old order and the status quoi
The post war generation used music and jazz in particular as a way to express their own cultural identity. To the older generation jazz was an Unholy Row. The influence of two seminal figures of jazz in Britain, Humphrey Lyttelton and John Dankworth, are perceptively and powerfully described.
I commend this book to anyone with an interest in jazz, social history but especially the music student who wants to get to grips with the history of post-war jazz in Britain and the musicians who established jazz as a cultural force.
28th November 2015