An explosive drama set in the early 1930s following a black jazz band in London at a time of extraordinary change.
Britain was at a great crossroads; just out of the financial crash and before the Second World War, when movies, magazines and music were becoming powerful and jazz was taking the world by storm. The sudden death of one of the band members tests all of the characters’ friendships, love, racial equality and moral values.
Music journalist Stanley misses the end of the Louis Lester Band gig, but decides to take a gamble after hearing the rave reviews, and promptly signs them. The band is booked to play at the shabby Imperial Hotel before an elderly audience who have never seen black musicians before. Many of them walk out in outrage, but a group of socialites are intrigued and impressed, and invite the band to play at a private party for Prince George. The beautiful and beguiling siblings, Julian and Pamela Luscombe, befriend the musicians and introduce them to upper class London society. Julian flirts with singer Jessie, and Pamela begins a relationship with Stanley. The band are treated to rooms at the hotel, fine clothes and sumptuous feasts – they have never experienced decadence like it.
But when Wesley, the band’s manager, is too bullish in demanding an extension of their contract at the Hotel, the owner reports him to the Alien Registration Office for deportation. As he is taken away on a bus and the band is forced to move on without him; they play for the Prince of Wales and are a huge hit.
Stanley features the band on the front cover of his magazine The Music Express, convinced they will be the biggest band in Britain. The band finds a patron in widow Lady Lavinia Cremone, who invites broadcasters from BBC Radio to their concert. They are played on the wireless and release a record; fans wait for autographs outside the hotel; they have finally hit the big time…
An explosive drama set in the early 1930s following a black jazz band in London at a time of extraordinary change. Music journalist Stanley befriends The Louis Lester Band and helps their rise to fame, from playing in a basement jazz club to the illustrious Imperial Hotel. At first, the hotel’s elderly audience treats the band with hostility, most of whom have never heard jazz music nor seen black musicians before. However, one table of young aristocrats love their new music and invite them to play at a garden party. Louis Lester, the band’s pianist, is particularly taken with Sarah, a young photographer. Stanley flirts with Pamela, a beautiful society girl. The partygoers watch with amazement as Prince George, the Duke of Kent, flirts with the two singers Jessie and Carla, and even plays the drums along with the band.
The band are loudly awoken one night by the police, they didn’t sign in that week to the Alien Registration Office, and deportation threatens. Luckily Stanley comes to the rescue just in time.
The band and their new friends are invited on a magical train journey, all courtesy of wealthy businessman Mr Masterson. Pamela and Stanley continue their flirtations on the train and begin a passionate affair. Only Wesley, the band’s manager, becomes a disruptive presence when he starts an argument over contracts. Wesley’s aggressive attitude doesn’t go unnoticed by the hotel management, and as the band’s popularity rises, Wesley is deported at the very moment Louis is leading a special concert for the Prince of Wales.
The Louis Lester band have yet to reach the fame they so desire, and are stuck playing children’s birthday parties at the Imperial Ballroom. Louis is frustrated. However, they are introduced to wealthy recluse Lady Lavinia Cremone, and she may be able to change their fortunes. She arranges a special performance for them to play in front of Prince George and invites a producer from the BBC and a record company executive. Finally, they are able to make their first record; it is played on the wireless and the band becomes a huge sensation.
Aristocrat Julian is really taken with singer Jessie and takes her out for a spin in a brand new car. She is impressed and delighted at all the attention she is getting.
The band are invited to play for the Prince of Wales and the Royal Air Force at an RAF dinner, a huge event. Jessie pretends she can’t go as she isn’t feeling well, when really Julian has promised to introduce her to a Hollywood film producer. Carla manages to overcome her nerves and sings wonderfully by herself. After the concert Louis dashes back to the London hotel and finds Jessie lying in a cupboard, bleeding. She has been viciously attacked.