'A tool for systemic change': jazz comes to Channel 4 for Black History Month

‘Jazz was born out of oppression,” the pianist Ashley Henry says, from a velvet booth at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London. “Music was all slaves had to hang on to after they were stripped of their languages and ripped from their cultures and families – it is the universal language and it has always reflected the now.”

After six months with nearly no live music and the fraught uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic leading arts venues across the country to grasp desperately for survival, setting foot in Ronnie Scott’s is a surreal experience. Yet, this is no usual programme of events at the historic jazz club – gone are the tables in the darkened live room, replaced instead by a throng of cameras and golden lamps ready to film a series of performances. Over the next two days, UK jazz-scene luminaries such as Henry, singers Zara McFarlane and Poppy Ajudha, pianist Reuben James and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson will be playing civil rights and protest jazz standards for a Channel 4 Black History Month special, Sing It Loud: Black and Proud, presented by Maya Jama.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 22/10/20]