The Barbados-born trumpeter Harry Beckett moved to Britain when he was 19. His first known recording session came in 1961 alongside Charles Mingus. This happened during the London sessions for the Tubby Hayes album All Night Long (Fontana, 1962), which was chronicled in the 2020 All About Jazz article Jazz & Film: An Alternative Top 20 Soundtrack Albums.
To debut with Mingus was an auspicious beginning and Beckett never looked back. Seemingly loved by everyone who met him, his music and personality reflected each other and both are perfectly caught by the title of this upbeat album. Joy Unlimited, originally released by Cadillac in 1975, is jazz rock infused with a dash of Calypsofied funk. It is played by a killer sextet of musicians' musicians with guitarist Ray Russell and keyboard player Brian Miller sharing most of the solo spotlight with Beckett. Exuberant and energizing, it has catchy tunes and frill-free arrangements. It is the absolute, total, care-free flipside of the moody contemporaneous work of Miles Davis and makes great summertime listening.
Beckett passed in 2010. During an eventful recording career he worked with many of Britain's most significant jazz and jazz-rock bandleaders and township-jazz expats, plus along the way important Americans such as Mingus, Oliver Nelson and David Murray. Like the alto saxophonist Joe Harriott (with whom he recorded), he was an early pioneer of a culturally distinct strand of Caribbean and African-enriched jazz, which in 2020 is a key ingredient in the new London jazz of players such as Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Binker Golding and Camilla George.
This 2020 edition of Joy Unlimited is available on vinyl, digital and, for the first time ever, CD.
No Time for Hello; Glowing; Changes Are Still Happening; Bracelets of Sound; Rings within Rings; Not Just Tomorrow.
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In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.