The Jamaican-born alto-saxophonist Joe Harriott was among the greatest exponents of jazz ever to have resided in the British Isles. His searing, endlessly inventive improvisations and his incredible virtuosity have secured him a place in the jazz pantheon, yet at the time of his death in 1973, he was a forgotten figure, ostracized from the wider jazz community. This was largely as a result of his excursions into what has since become known as free-form jazz, a path Joe trod in the 1960s with a passion and fervour that many of his contemporaries perceived as a waste of both his skills and energies. As often happens with visionaries such as Joe Harriott, however, the passage of time has shown that he was indeed an innovator, and that his free-from jazz explorations were not only a hugely valid musical statement but also Joe’s way of freeing himself from the shackles of Charlie Parker’s influence. As Joe himself famously remarked: “Parker? There’s them over here can play a few aces too.”
And nowhere is that statement better exemplified than in the two albums collated on this Vocalion reissue. Recorded in the early 1960s at London’s Lansdowne Studios, they feature the Joe Harriott Quintet at the very top of its game, blending free-from material with more conventional forms of modern jazz. Joe is heard alongside the inimitable Shake Keane, the Carribean-born trumpet and flugelhorn virtuoso whose like we have not seen since his death in 1997. The free-from element is represented on the 1964 Movement album by Joe’s compositions Beams, Movement and Spaces, and there’s a nod in the direction of his erstwhile employer with the inclusion of Michael Garrick’s Face in the Crowd. One of the most beautiful moments comes in Morning Blue, a hauntingly evocative Joe Harriott original that Shake Keane later re-recorded on his 1967 album That’s the Noise.
Going in the opposition direction, the Broadway musical High Spirits might seem like odd subject matter for the Joe Harriott Quintet, given its relentlessly modern outlook. Yet it’s what constituted the music on the second album in this collection, albeit resplendent in pianist Pat Smythe’s colourful, swinging arrangements. In fact, this material is ideal for both Joe and Shake in that it brings out their genius for lyrical, melodic improvisation, particularly so in such numbers from the show as If I Gave You, Home Sweet Heaven and I Know Your Heart. Sterling support is provided throughout both albums by Pat Smythe (piano), Coleridge Goode (bass) and Bobby Orr (drums).
What’s more, both the Movement and High Spirits albums were originally issued in mono only, but Vocalion has sourced this reissue from the original stereo master tapes, thereby allowing this wonderful music to be heard in its true splendour.
Remastered from the original stereo master tapes.
LP 33SX 1627 (1964) FIRST TIME IN STEREO
Morning Blue (Harriott)
Count Twelve (Harriott)
Face in the Crowd (Garrick)
Blues on Blues (Garrick)
Spiritual Blues (Harriott)
(Music from the musical) High Spirits
LP 33SX 1692 (1965) FIRST TIME IN STEREO
Home Sweet Heaven (Martin; Gray arr Smythe)
If I Gave You (Martin; Gray arr Smythe)
Go into Your Trance (Martin; Gray arr Smythe)
You’d Better Love Me (Martin; Gray arr Smythe)
I Know Your Heart (Martin; Gray arr Smythe)
Was She Prettier Than I? (Martin; Gray arr Smythe)
Forever and a Day (Martin; Gray arr Smythe)
Something Tells Me (Martin; Gray arr Smythe)
The Joe Harriott Quintet: Joe Harriott (alto sax); Bobby Orr (drums); Shake Keane (trumpet/flugelhorn); Pat Smythe (piano); Coleridge Goode (bass)
2 CD SET - 2CDSML 8486