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1990s - Standing still?

Female performers continued to grow in numbers, among them singers Tina May and Claire Martin, and pianists Nikki Yeoh and Nikki Iles.

But the momentum created by the Guest Stars and other all-women jazz groups in Britain in the 1980s faltered, in part through public funding cuts, and while the music continued to diversify it also seemed to reflect a general mood of conservatism in both its presentation and its most popular styles.

As opportunities for women jazz musicians now seemed to be far fewer than had been hoped after the breakthrough of women’s jazz groups in the 1980s, guitarist Deirdre Cartwright and bassist Alison Rayner (former members of the Guest Stars) took the initiative to start their Blow the Fuse organisation in 1989 to create playing opportunities for themselves and other musicians, especially women instrumentalists.

The organisation played an important role throughout the 1990s (and still does today), establishing new venues, setting up events, and encouraging jazz musicians in a period marked mainly by consolidation rather than innovation in the music and its presentation.

But new developments in the promotion of jazz as a thoroughly multicultural enterprise in Britain began with the creation, by Gary Crosby and Janine Irons, of the Tomorrow’s Warriors organisation in 1991. Crosby and Irons set out with energy, ambition and efficiency to create a many-sided support system for new, aspiring jazz musicians with a special focus on encouraging black and female entrants into the music. Over subsequent decades, the organisation became increasingly prominent and important, continuing to expand and diversify its promoting and educational activities, always with a view to nurturing new generations of British jazz musicians.

One wholly new development, acid jazz, combining elements of jazz, funk and hip-hop and utilising looped beats, grew in popularity through the 1990s, pioneered by new-wave DJs and presenters including Gilles Peterson, Jez Nelson and Chris Phillips.

In 1992 Britain’s first jazz radio station, Jazz FM was founded by pianist-composer Dave Lee. After early financial crises, the station was re-branded but returned to its original title in 2008 and continues to broadcast today.

Among other developments, Digby Fairweather founded the Jazz Section of the British Musicians’ Union in 1992. The Jazz Café in Camden, London opened in 1990 and continues to be a popular venue celebrating all music forms. Jazzwise Publications launched their award-winning Jazzwise monthly magazine in 1997. The London Jazz Festival was founded in 1992. And jazz education became more firmly recognised. Leeds International Jazz Education Conference was launched in 1993, and 1999 saw the start of the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) Jazz Examinations.

Image: Deirdre Cartwright. Brian O’Connor photograph, 2014.

Download the full British Jazz Timeline written by Roger Cotterrell and Digby Fairweather

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