REVIEW: Rhythm & Reaction: The Age of Jazz in Britain, Two Temple Place

This fascinating exhibition expertly weaves history and music showcased through  a wide range of artefacts. 

Edward Burra, The Band, 1934. (c)Estate of the Artist, courtesy of Lefevre Fine Art Ltd, London and British Council Collection. 

The history of how jazz came to exist in America is well documented – but how did it come across to Britain and what was its effect on the people over here? With Two Temple Place’s latest exhibition these two questions are answered in full detail – with the help of a variety of artefacts to offer a comprehensive history of British jazz.

This intimate exhibition takes visitors on a journey from the immensely popular minstrel shows which took place in Britain (proving popular) during the late 19th and 20th centuries which depicted exaggerated and derogatory images of black lives all the way through to the end of the Second World War when musical style began to change once again.

Filled with costumes, programmes, paintings, instruments and ceramics, Rhythm and Reaction explores how the influence of jazz began to change the outlook of society in Britain and offered a sense of freedom, paving the way for the 1920’s style.

While the exhibition taken as a whole does feel like a celebration of jazz, it also doesn’t shy away from the certain stereotypes that existed when the British public began to become aware of jazz. But rather than lingering on the negative side, the exhibition swiftly shows how jazz was used to unite people through dance and art, particularly revealed through Edward Burra’s gorgeously coloured and confident paintings that really capture the attention and imagination.

Rhythm & Reaction goes into a lot of detail, covering all aspects of jazz and its history well, but at times it does feel slightly information heavy – requiring quite a bit of reading time, rather than letting the objects speak for themselves in places. It is moments like this when it seems that the exhibition requires a slightly bigger space to communicate all that it wants to say effectively.

This being said, visitors really get a sense of just how exciting the jazz era really was thanks to  films of people enjoying live performances and the music played through speakers in each room. The whole display captures the spirit of the era as well as reflecting the sophisticated style of the music perfectly.

Overall, this is a lovely little exhibition that just requires a little more room for it to properly make an impact. It is still worth a visit however for those who enjoy their musical history or for those who are new to the world of jazz.

Rhythm & Reaction is on display at the Two Temple Place until the 22nd April. For more information visit:

Rating: ❤❤❤❤

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