Jamaican-born alto saxophonist, bandleader and composer Joe Harriott was destined to become a seminal figure in the evolution of British jazz in the 1960s. This two-disc collection of his earlier work in Britain is a primer in just what a gifted instrumentalist he was, covering as it does a range of his work from the mid-1950she arrived in Britain from his place of birth in May, 1951under his own name as well as those of other leaders.
The case for Harriott as an exceptionally gifted soloist is stated from the first track. Any saxophonist approaching Gershwin's "Summertime runs the perhaps inevitable risk of being compared to Sidney Bechet's reading of the song, but Harriott makes the comparison irrelevant, and steeped though he is in the innovations of Charlie Parker, it's clear that his rhythmic sense even at this slow to medium tempo is entirely his own.
More crucially still, the intrinsic cry that was always a hallmark of his later work is firmly in place here too. "April In Paris, recorded at the same session in February of 1954, reveals it in full, whilst "Last Resort, from May of the same year, reveals how Harriott could burn with the best of them. What's of note also, and even at this relatively early stage of his career, is the urgency of his musical communication.
All the music collected on the second disc of this set reveals Harriott as a musician who was evolving at an uncommonly accelerated pace. This is perhaps most evident on "She's Funny That Way, where the unassuming nature of his lines is evidence of a musician crafting his art in the service of profoundly musical ends. For Harriott virtuosity was clearly not an end in itself but rather the means through which he was best placed to express himself. To hear him in the company of singer Lita Roza on "You'll Never Know is ample evidence of this.
When it comes down to it, however, there's only so much that can be accomplished through the discussion of individual tracks. Investigation of the music found on Killer Joe! and some of those scarce Harriott albums from the 1960s including Free Form (Jazzland, 1960) and Abstract (Jazzland, 1961) provides a real insight into a sadly neglected musician of whom wide celebration is long overdue.
Track Listing: CD1: Summertime; April In Paris; Cherokee; Out Of Nowhere; Last Resort; Best Behaviour; How Deep Is The Ocean; Get Happy; Akee Blues; Jump For Me; Can't We Be Friends? Raymond-Overture Theme; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Chirracahaua; Teddi; The Song Is You; It Don't Mean A Thing; Blues In Threes. CD2: Introduction; Harlem; She's Funny That Way; Fascinating Rhythm; I'll Remember April; Easy To Love; You'll Never Know; Just Goofin'; Everything Happens To Me; Just Friends; Joe's Blues; Bang; With Every Breath I Take; A Night In Tunisia; The Big Fist; Blues Original; My Heart Belongs To Daddy.
Personnel: Joe Harriott: alto sax; Dill Jones: piano (CD1#1-4); Jack Fallon: bass (CD1#1-4); Phil Seamen: drums (CD1#1-4, CD2#5-6, CD2#8-17); Bill LeSage: vibes, piano (CD1#5-8, CD1#10-17, CD2#1-4, CD2#7); Sammy Stokes: bass (CD1#5-8, CD1#10-17, CD2#5-6, CD2#8-11); Tony Kinsey: drums (CD1#5-8, CD1#10-17, CD2#1-4, CD2#7); Pete Pitterson: trumpet (CD1#9); Bruce Turner: alto sax (CD1#9); Oscar McKay: piano (CD1#9); Denny Wright: guitar (CD1#9); Joe Sampson: bass (CD1#9); Tony Kinsey: drums (CD1#9); Alf Hayward: maracas (CD1#9); Buddy Pipps: conga (CD1#9); Kenny Baker: trumpet (CD1#18); Keith Christie: trombone (CD1#18); Bruce Turner: alto sax (CD1#18); Jimmy Skidmore: tenor sax (CD1#18); Harry Klein: baritone sax (CD1#18); Dill Jones: piano (CD1#18); Cedric West: guitar (CD1#18); Frank Clarke: bass (CD1#18); Eric Delaney: drums (CD1#18); Eric Dawson: bass (CD2#1-4, CD2#7); Max Harris: piano (CD2#5-6, CD2#8-11); Dave McCallum: violin (CD2#5-6), Sid Kamine: violin (CD2#5-6); David Katz: violin (CD2#5-6);; Louis Rosin: viola (CD2#5-6); Fred Alexander: cello (CD2#5-6);; Maria Korchinska: harp (CD2#5-6); Laurie Johnson: musical direction (CD2#5-6); Stan Palmer: trumpet (CD2#12-15); Hank Shaw: trumpet (CD2#12-15); Dave Usden: trumpet (CD2#12-15); Jimmy Watson: trumpet (CD2#12-15); Jack Botterill: trombone (CD2#12-15); Robin Kaye: trombone (CD2#12-15); Mac Minshull: trombone (CD2#12-15); Ken Wray: trombone: trombone (CD2#12-15); Dougie Robinson: alto sax (CD2#12-15); Ronnie Scott: tenor sax (CD2#12-15); Pete King: tenor sax (CD2#12-15); Benny Green: baritone sax (CD2#12-15); Norman Stenfalt: piano (CD2#12-15); Eric Peter: bass (CD2#12-15); Johnny Weed: piano (CD2#16-17); Major Holley: bass (CD2#16-17).
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinet player, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto sax player they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.
He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.
Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.