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British jazz pioneer honoured in Southwark

JAZZ CLUB: Musicians from the orchestra in full flow

A PLAQUE was unveiled in Southwark to pay tribute to a pioneer of jazz in the UK.

It commemorates Frank Bates, a singer in the Southern Syncopated Orchestra (SSO) that was made up of African American, Caribbean, and British born musicians.

The orchestra comprised 27 musicians and 19 singers who came from a variety of countries, such as Barbados, Antigua and Ghana.

The musical ensemble was invited to play at Buckingham Palace after the First World War, and the SSO helped transform the city’s club scene, popularising black music.

However, at the height of their success, Bates and seven other SSO members died in a shipping disaster.

During the plaque’s unveiling last Sunday (May 19), Bates’ granddaughter Juliet Jones touched on the contributions made by the SSO to early jazz.

She said: “I consider it an honour to share this story of forgotten heroes and heroines of jazz with the world…sharing the personal effect it’s had on my family and that of other descendants and widows and orphans affected by the disaster is already grabbing global attention.”

Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Althea Smith said it was a privilege to be involved in honouring the singer and celebrate the history of SSO.

Founder of the Nubian Jak Plaque Commemorative Plaque Scheme Jak Beula said: “The evolution of British popular music after World War One and the impact of early Jazz on the nation and in Europe, owes a great deal of gratitude to its greatest musical influence and pioneers of the time – the legend of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra.”

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