Dr Gayle Murchison

UK Host Institution: University of York
Project status

Race, Gender, and Jazz in Windrush-era London: Mary Lou Williams, Winifred Atwell, Cleo Laine, and Shirley Bassey

This project will research African American jazz pianist-composer Mary Lou Williams and selected Black British female musicians active during the 1950s. Murchison examines jazz in different contexts: Williams’ African American modern jazz and the jazz-divergent styles of: pioneering Windrush generation pianist Trinidadian-born Winifred Atwell; and, British-born singers Cleo Laine (Lady Dankworth) and Shirley Bassey. Each created styles of Black British jazz and popular music. The choice of these musicians will allow this project to take an intersectional approach to post-WWII Black British jazz, thereby advancing British (and US) jazz studies.

An interdisciplinary methodology will interrogate race, gender, music, and migration by drawing on the disciplines of historical musicology, Black Studies (US and UK), gender studies, migration studies, and social history with respect to (im)migration. The primary methodology is library and archival research. Sources include the music; the mainstream and Black press; Black British history archives; oral histories; and, interviews of musicians and others.

Sign up to our email newsletters