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Gems from the Archive – Crescendo

Friday 4th March 2016

Crescendo magazine, 1969The National Jazz Archive is full of fabulous interviews, magazines and photographs. This month we feature Crescendo magazine, which began publication in July 1962. Its first editorial announced: “This is the first fully professional magazine produced specifically for musicians and would-be musicians. We intend to keep it that way”.

It was renamed Crescendo International in April 1967, and relaunched as Crescendo International and Jazz Music in May 1991. Publication continued until autumn 2009. Visitors to the Archive in Loughton can view the complete run of 400 printed copies of the magazine.
All the issues published between July 1962 and December 1974 are available to view on the NJA website HERE in digitised form, where they provide a fascinating ‘jazz-oriented’ social document. In addition to first class articles and reviews of UK and US musicians, the front covers make a wonderful visual gallery of jazz artists.

Crescendo was the brainchild of Dennis Matthews and was often spoken of as the UK version of DownBeat magazine. When the magazine began publication in 1962, Dennis was working for a musical instrument importer and retailer and also organising student big bands. Initially, he produced the magazine on a part-time basis but eventually the magazine became his main occupation and he later became managing director. Crescendo was very much a labour of love for Dennis.

Crescendo magazine, 1971Dennis died in 2010 when NJA Founder Digby Fairweather wrote: “Dennis carried the flame for the glory days of Big Band and for its British and American stars for decades in the columns of Crescendo."
The final issue of Crescendo contained the news that photographer Denis Williams, who had worked for 47 years at the magazine, had recently passed away. Many of Denis Williams’ wonderful jazz images are also held at the Archive and can be viewed HERE.

I first met Dennis Matthews at the age of 15 in 1960 when joining one of his Sunday morning student big bands at Mac’s Rehearsal Rooms opposite the Windmill Theatre. Later, Dennis helped me to get my first full-time job with the musical instrument retailer Dennis himself worked for.

Interviews with leading UK and visiting US musicians by Les Tomkins were a regular feature in the magazine, and more than 300 of them can be read in the Jazz Histories section of the Archive website.

Mike Rose
March 2016

Top: Crescendo, May 1969 - The Duke
Below: Crescendo, June 1971 - Bill Basie