Sharp suits, thin ties and the coolest musicians on Earth: Jazz 625 is back!


Singular vision … Bill Evans in the BBC studio.
“The camera holds its close-up on the pianist’s hands, his long fingers adding delicate inner voicings to the familiar melody of Come Rain or Come Shine. Then, very slowly, the camera tracks along the player’s arms and up his body until it reaches his head, which is lowered far enough to be virtually parallel with the keyboard. Nothing is intrusive, nothing is hurried, everything is keyed to the mood of rapt intensity. Captured in black and white because that’s all there was, the shot perfectly complements this music, the jazz of the 1960s. It’s a rare example of television finding a visual language to match a sound. Bill Evans was that pianist, and Jazz 625 was the programme. The hour of music he recorded for the BBC in London on that day in 1965 survives as a priceless document of one of the most influential jazz musicians of his era, a man whose singular vision played a key role in Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. And the series of which his trio’s performance was a part remains one of the few examples of televison and jazz coming together to create something that brought the best out of both. Jazz 625 was devised as part of a package of programmes chosen to launch the BBC’s second channel in 1964. The enigmatic title was chosen to reflect the upgrade from the 405-line VHF signal to the 625 lines of UHF offered by the new channel – the high-definition TV of the time. Jazz was among the subjects thought to be culturally appropriate for such a venture, and Jazz 625 – like the parallel strands of Theatre 625 and Cinema 625 – was designed to express a higher purpose. As Nicolas Pillai wrote in his book Jazz As Visual Language: ‘Its spare, modernist visuals were emblematic of a reinvigorated, progressive BBC.’ The series ran on BBC2 for two years, during which 83 half-hour programmes were devoted to the work of some of the music’s major figures. They included Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and the Modern Jazz Quartet (each of whom, like Evans, recorded enough for two programmes), Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Coleman Hawkins, Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson, as well as British musicians such as Tubby Hayes and Cleo Laine. …”
Guardian (Video)
W – Jazz 625
YouTube: Jazz 625 At The BBC Live Concert Video, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Jazz 625, Dizzy Gillespie Quintet-(Jazz 625) 1966, OSCAR PETERSON TRIO at BBC, JAZZ 625, Jazz 625 – The Modern Jazz Quartet, Dave Brubeck Quartet Paul Desmond Jazz 625 Live Concert Video 1964, JAZZ 625 – Thelonius Monk 21-04-65 Part 1, Part 2, Coleman Hawkins Jazz 625, Jimmy Smith – Jazz 625, Part 2, Clark Terry Jazz 625, Ben Webster Jazz 625, Willie “The Lion” Smith – The Lion on BBC’s “Jazz 625” – 1965, JAZZ 625…..FEATURES THE BRITISH BAND OF ALEX WELSH

On target … Cannonball Adderley in 1964 with his quintet, featuring Joe Zawinul on piano.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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