In April of 1964, the British Broadcasting Corporation launched BBC Two as a highbrow alternative to its mainstream TV channel. One of the new channel's first programs was Jazz 625, which spotlighted many of the greatest Jazz musicians of the day. Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans and others performed on the show, which featured straight-forward camera work and a minimalist set. The focus was on the music.
The title of the show referred to the channel's 625-line UHF bandwidth, which offered higher resolution than the 405-line VHF transmission on BBC One. Among the surviving episodes is Thelonious Monk's March 14, 1965 performance at the Marquee Club in London. You can watch a 35-minute excerpt above. The quartet features Monk on piano, Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums. They perform four numbers:
- Straight No Chaser
You can learn the story behind Jazz 625 by reading an article by Louis Barfe at Transdiffusion. And to see more from the shows, scroll down.
The Oscar Peterson Trio:
Above is a 25-minute excerpt from the Oscar Peterson Trio's October 1, 1964 performance. The original show, like other episodes of Jazz 625, was over an hour long. The trio features Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums.
The Bill Evans Trio:
Above are two 35-minute episodes, shown back-to-back, featuring the Bill Evans Trio. The two sets were recorded on March 19, 1965 and feature Evans on piano, Chuck Israels on bass and Larry Bunker on drums.
The Modern Jazz Quartet:
The Modern Jazz Quartet performed for Jazz 625 on April 28, 1964. Above is a 27-minute except, featuring the Quartet's musical director John Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibraphone, Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums. Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida makes a special appearance.