Q&A: Jazz Music
From the lively trumpet blasts of Louis Armstrong, to
the stirring croon of Billie Holiday—Jazz has a life, culture, and cult following all its own. Grantchester hero
Sidney Chambers (James Norton) would certainly agree. Throughout the series,
we’ve watched him build his Bechet collection, find solace in his record
player, and fall under the spell of alluring jazz songstress Gloria Dee.
In an exclusive MASTERPIECE interview, series Producer Emma Kingsman-Lloyd dug deeper into the show’s swingin’ soundtrack and the rich musical history behind it.
do you think Sidney Chambers loves jazz?
love of jazz is an important part of the book [on which Grantchester was based]. Author James Runcie created a
man who likes ‘warm beer and hot jazz’. For the television series it was
important to reflect Sidney’s love of jazz because it was—in 1953—a very
modern, innovative music genre. It’s pre-rock-and-roll, but it reflects
Sidney’s youth and vitality."
music and culture are such a huge part of the series. How did you prepare the
actors (especially James) for this?
immersed James in the music of Sidney Bechet as a 'bootcamp' and he really
enjoyed it and responded to the music. At the end of filming James bought
us all Sidney Bechet CDs!
also played various jazz numbers on set, from Louis Armstrong to Miles Davis.
It was important, for example, when Sidney smashes the record after the
disastrous dinner party in Episode Two, that James have the right piece of
music to really get into Sidney’s mood."
you explain the position of jazz as a genre during this time?
the ‘50s, jazz was an established musical genre but it was still a rapidly
changing and evolving form of music. It was constantly evolving, from the
masterly sax and trumpet of Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong—both emerging out
of the New Orleans trad jazz scene in the ‘20s and prolific throughout the ‘30s
and ‘40s—to the beautiful small group vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald and
Billie Holliday. The turn of the decade saw artists such as Miles Davis, Thelonius
Monk, and Bud Powell pioneer increasingly bold and experimental directions.
While recorded music was a well-established medium by this time, records were not so
readily available and accessible like they are today. For someone like
Sidney Chambers, tracking down jazz records would have been a labor of love and
they would have been real treasures to him. But live music would have
been really the thing – intimate small bands, invariably from exciting places
like New York and New Orleans, in atmospheric venues like the Straight 8’s would
have been truly special – [in Episode 5] even Geordie was a convert!"
Lunn is well known to our audience for his work on Downton Abbey. What drew you to him for this project?
wanted a composer that would bring a unique style to the series and to reflect
Sidney’s character in the music. Sidney is a complex man—at times enthusiastic
and buoyant, at others dark and broody. John is a hugely experienced and
exciting composer who was able to bring a classic style to the series whilst
also reflecting the fun and comedy. It was a real privilege to work with
us more about “Gloria Dee and her Band” from Episode 5?
Dee and her Band were created for the series. We cast Camilla Marie Beeput as
Gloria knowing that we needed a fantastically interesting actress who could
also sing. She came to the audition and blew our socks off. Once Camilla was
cast we needed to build the band around her. Danny Layton, our music supervisor,
was able to bring together a wonderful group of musicians, led by piano player
Taz Modi, who pre-recorded the tracks with Camilla and then performed with her
American audiences that have been inspired by the music of Grantchester, what would you recommend they explore?
is a vast world all of its own and the audience have a lifetime of great music
to explore. Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong are a great place to start
along with other well-known artists such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny
Goodman, Woody Herman and on to Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins,
Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker. But this is just scratching the
surface—there is lots of music available and there are some amazingly good
value box sets and compilations out there to explore. Some of record labels
have done a great job of re-issuing their back catalogue.
also really worth doing a bit of local research and getting out there to find
some live jazz.
main thing, though, is just get listening!"