Caricature and emulation: When Jazz arrived in Britain

Although the English and other Europeans frequently insist that (Black) American musicians and music initially gained more acceptance overseas that at home, that was not really the case in post-Edwardian England. As reflected in a London exhibition, Rhythm & Reaction: The Age of Jazz in Britain, The New Statesman’s Garth Cartwright points out that the country’s reaction to a form of Jazz that arrived in Great Britain with The Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1919 was mixed at best. Catherine Tackley, head of Music at the University of Liverpool and curator of the exhibition, recalls that while Jazz was welcomed by the young and dancers in general, and later inspired an outbreak of British creativity in painting, graphic design, fashion, journalism, textiles and ceramicists, issues of racial stereotyping and minstrel-style caricatures permeated the popular press and discourse. And these characteristics persisted even when Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington began touring regularly in the early 1930s. ” “Jazz certainly brought races together, particularly musicians, but also audiences, in a way that was problematic to some degree in this period,”says Tackley. Although “stereotype was never far away.”