Back in the summer of ’88 I was editing and publishing a magazine of ‘World Jazz Jive’ called Straight No Chaser. Along with a host of peeps from the thriving Brit Art community we were based in Hoxton, a shady, run down, working class area in east London.
Our office was in a cobbled street, a stones throw away from the the Bass Clef jazz club — a club that would morph, in the early Nineties, into the most radical venue in the city hosting club nights with Coldcut, Mo’Wax, Acid Jazz, Anohkah. Aba Shanti and Metalheadz.
A decade of divisive Thatcher-ite government was drawing to a close and a new optimism was in the air at the thought of a new millennium. Ecstasy had arrived in clubland and predictably the media panics ensued as illegal raves sprang up across the nation. It was around this time that I encountered Chris Bierlein and his gritty black and white shots, taken as he wandered through the streets of London, capture the downbeat vibe of that time.
Meanwhile, it’s his music related images that convey a formative and unique cultural and jazz related moment. The images of the now globally renowned broadcaster and DJ Gilles Peterson, captured on air at BBC Radio London, are priceless. Peterson’s pre-internet, cult radio show was called Mad On Jazz and paved the way for a groundbreaking nu-jazz / “acid jazz” scene that went global. That ‘Worldwide’ jazz infused family continues to thrive three decades on. We also get to venture inside Peterson’s legendary, dark, sweat soaked Sunday afternoon session in Camden lock – Talkin’ Loud & Saying Something. Musically challenging Peterson’s session hosted the baddest dancers – jazz-wise and otherwise – who would descend on the club from all over the country.
In this photo-story the dynamic IDJ (I Dance Jazz) appear both live, with an array of musicians, and back-stage reasoning with a young, beret sporting Peterson. It was also the era of the Jazz Warriors… a young, energised and radical Black British big band… ‘Out of Many, One People’…. and Chris brings back vivid memories with his portraits of the ensemble’s dazzling saxophonists Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson. These images tap into a movement that was shrugging off all restraints and gives us a timely and valuable snapshot of a time when the Freedom Principle was in full flight.