Home » Jazz Musicians » Joe Harriott

Joe Harriott

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.




Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Swings High

Cadillac Records


Chronology: Live...

Jazz In Britain


Joe Harriott Quintet:...

Dutton Vocalion


Partying With Joe

Kedar Entertainment Group



Kedar Entertainment Group



Ornette Coleman
saxophone, alto
Albert Ayler
saxophone, tenor
Archie Shepp
saxophone, tenor
Steve Lacy
saxophone, soprano
Pharoah Sanders
saxophone, tenor
David Murray
saxophone, tenor
Sam Rivers
saxophone, tenor
Hamiet Bluiett
saxophone, baritone
Odean Pope
Jimmy Lyons
saxophone, alto
Frank Lowe
saxophone, tenor

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.