During the 1980s, without a major stylistic innovator who had providentially appeared around whom jazz history could be constructed such as an Armstrong, a Goodman, a Parker, a Gillespie, an Ornette Coleman, a John Coltrane and a Miles Davis, jazz became characterised by a diversity of individual contributions. In Britain, jazz began to enjoy a revival not seen since the Trad boom of the 1950s. Not only were clubs opening were jazz was played for dancing, but several young and talented musicians began to emerge with whom younger audiences could identify. Musicians such as Courtney Pine, Steve Williamson, Andy Sheppard and Tommy Smith were signed by big record labels and began appearing in Sunday colour supplements and style magazines. Suddenly a jazz gig was the place to be seen, and dubbed “The New Jazz” by the media began to attract a considerable youth following.
One of the first signs that something was afoot was the emergence of Loose Tubes, a glorious folly of some 21 young musicians playing arrangements by their talented pianist Django Bates and bassist Steve Berry. By 1987 they had performed a late night Henry Wood Promenade Concert at the Albert Hall and their recordings were being produced by Teo Macero, famous for his work with Miles Davis’ classic albums for Columbia. They eventually fractured into a number of sub-cultures, not least Django Bates’ Human Chain, Iain Ballamy’s Balloon Man, Mark Lockheart and Martin France’s Perfect Houseplants and together with Julian Argulles, who all went on to build successful careers in jazz.
Ultimately, however, the 1980s was dominated by Courtney Pine, who emerged as the “main man” of contemporary British jazz, “It is impossible to ascribe the same status to more senior players,” argued Wire magazine in 1988. “We aren’t talking about relative values in the all-time Hall of Fame for British jazz – we’re talking about the moment, about today. It doesn’t really matter if he’s number one or not: it’s his time.” Pine and fellow saxophonist Gail Thompson co-founded a wonderful musical collective called Jazz Warriors which produced musicians such as bassist Gary Crosby, saxophonist Steve Williamson, trombonist Dennis Rollins and Mobo Award winning saxophonist Denys Baptiste. Great proselytisers for the music, they have brought jazz to hundreds of youngsters in London through their clinics and workshops such as Community Music or Musicworks outreach programmes. Gary Crosby is probably best known for his highly successful band Jazz Jamaica, reflecting his Jamaican heritage and the result is a glorious fusion of jazz, mento, ska and reggae. Together with his partner Janine Irons, they created the award winning Dune label, which has provided an important voice for musicians such as Denys Baptiste, Juliet Roberts, Soweto Kinch, Abram Wilson, Robert Mitchell, Jason Yarde's J-Life, Nu-Troop, Andrew McCormack and Tomorrows Warriors.