Joseph Arthurlin 'Joe' Harriott was a Jamaican jazz musician and composer, whose principal instrument was the alto saxophone.
Initially a bebopper, he is now widely acknowledged as one of the worldwide pioneers of free jazz. He was educated at Kingston's famed Alpha Boys School, which produced a number of prominent Jamaican musicians. He moved to the UK as a working musician in 1951 and lived in the country for the rest of his life. Harriott was part of a wave of Caribbean jazz musicians who arrived in Britain during the 1950s, including Dizzy Reece, Harold McNair, Harry Beckett and Wilton Gaynair.
While recovering from tubercolosis in 1958, Harriott developed his own style of free jazz independently from Ornette Coleman, although he used a piano-based quintet (sax, trumpet, piano, drums, bass). They recorded "Free Form" (1960) and "Abstract" (1962), considered the manifestos of British free-jazz, and an even more radical experiment, "Movement" (1963).
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 "Shanta Quintet" (1966) for sitar and strings.
The two musicians formed the 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.
Harriott died of cancer in January 1973.