Joe Harriott

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Free Form (1960), 7.5/10
Abstract (1962), 7.5/10
Movement (1963), 8/10
High Spirits (1964), 5/10
Indo-Jazz Fusions (1966), 7/10
Indo-Jazz Suite (1966), 7.5/10
Personal Portrait (1967), 5.5/10
Hum Dono (1969), 7/10
Helter Skelter (2017), 5.5/10

Jamaican-born alto saxophonist Joe Harriott (1928) relocated to Britain in 1951, initially playing the bebop music that was popular at the time. While recovering from tubercolosis in 1958, Harriott invented free jazz independently from Ornette Coleman, although he used a piano-based quintet (sax, trumpet, piano, drums, bass). They recorded Free Form (november 1960) and Abstract (november 1961), the manifestos of British free-jazz, and an even more radical experiment, Movement (1963). The quintet rapidly changed course and ended its career with the conventional High Spirits (september 1964), a jazz interpretation of a mediocre musical, that almost sounded like a repudiation of Harriott's masterpieces. The final release of the Joe Harriott Quintet, Swings High (june 1967), was released many years later.

In 1965 Harriott met Indian violinist John Mayer, who, after relocating to Britain in 1952, had already composed Raga Music (1952) for solo clarinet, a Violin Sonata (1955), the suite Dances of India (1958) for sitar, flute, tabla, tambura and orchestra, and a Shanta Quintet (1966) for sitar and strings. The two musicians formed the mixed-race ensemble Indo-Jazz Fusions. Harriott thus pioneered the fusion with Indian music culminating with Indo-Jazz Fusions (september 1966) and the Indo-Jazz Suite (october 1966), two albums (mostly composed by Mayer) recorded by a double quintet: Harriott's jazz quintet and an Indian quintet led by Mayer plus Diwan Motihar on sitar, flute, tambura and tabla. He pursued this idea on Hum-Dono (1969), featuring Indian guitarist Amancio D'Silva, trumpeter Ian Carr and vocalist Norma Winstone.

Personal Portrait (september 1967) combined his quintet of flute, harpsichord, bass and drums with a string quartet.

Helter Skelter (Acrobat, 2017) collects rarities dating from june 1955 to june 1963.

Harriott died of cancer in january 1973.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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