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Keeper of the Flame : Modern Jazz in Manchester, 1946-1972, Bill Birch, selfpublished, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9566670-0-7, hardback, 328pp,

25. Bill Birch, in the opening paragraph of his brief preface to this remarkable book, sets the scene and whets the appetite thus: ONCE, it was the latest thing. Derived from swing and conceived in the early 1940s by young jazz musicians who hung out in Harlem Town, New York City. Their rendezvous with destiny began at Minton's Playhouse at 210, West 118th Street and Clark Monroe's Uptown House at 2275 Seventh Ave., on the SE corner of West 134th Street. The innovation was quickly termed Rebop, then Bebop, then simply Bop and was the forerunner of what is now known as modern jazz. He then describes how the new sound came to Britain via 78rpm records flown in for war-weary GIs and then from young Londoners like Ronnie Scott and Johnny Dankworth who enrolled to play on the Cunard liners, (dubbed Geraldo's Navy) with the sole intention of hearing the bebop pioneers play in their Manhattan jazz clubs. How this music spread to Manchester and became embedded in the cultural history of our region is a chronicle which could (and should) have been written 40 years ago. No trained social historian took up the challenge but Bill Birch, a trained orchestral doublebass player and trained lithographic plate maker, did. He alone was able to bring together all his life experiences: a love of the new music via his period as a jazz bass player; his hobbies of photography and autograph collecting; the meticulous attention to detail required in his chosen profession and the drive which took him from the shop floor to export sales manager, visiting 52 countries in 28 years. The result is a tour de force which has been universally acclaimed by jazz critics locally, nationally and internationally since its launch in November 2010. Each chapter, usually one per year through the 50s and 60s, is an easy-to-read narrative retailing the emergence of a modern jazz community in Manchester. In addition to local musicians and regular visitors from London, the city was a haven for star American instrumentalists who, after appearing at the Free Trade Hall, the Astoria at Plymouth Grove or Belle Vue's King's Hall, would repair to the Oasis, the Three Coins, the Bodega or, especially, the legendary Club 43 at its locations over the years. Period maps enhance the feel, showing exactly where each of the venues, concert halls and clubs alike, were based. Colour illustrations of LP covers, concert programmes, posters and even ticket stubs enhance the book which is beautifully printed on 150 gram art paper. The front and rear end papers are covered with around 100 autographs of these who figure large in the book. Best of all however are the photographs, most of which are previously unpublished. Over 30 photographers, not including the author himself, contribute more than 300 pictures of startling quality. At the Free Trade Hall alone we see a stunning 3-page set of the Count Basie Orchestra in 1959, Ella Fitzgerald on four separate visits, trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, tenor saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz, pianists Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Erroll Garner, Dave Brubeck and a deeply thoughtful Thelonious Monk. Then there is Billie Holiday on stage in 1954 and relaxing afterwards next door in the Midland Hotel. Add to these external and

internal shots of most of the venues mentioned in the text, with dozens of British and American musicians and you have some idea of the scope of this book. Bill Birch would never claim to be a scholar but with this magnum opus he enters the pantheon of social historians who have graced the pages of this learned publication over the years. Out of the limited edition of 1,000 copies fewer than 250 remain and can only be obtained from the author at 6 Square Road, Todmorden, Lancs OL14 7SU, Tel: 01706-816229, birchiano@talktalk.net Peter Caswell
(Reviewed

in the North West Labour History Journal No.36, 2011)