Barbados-born Harry Beckett was known across the jazz world, respected as a major player on the UK scene for many years, winning the Melody Maker
Trumpeter of the Year award in 1972 and recording or performing with a host of musicians including Louis Moholo-Moholo
, John Dankworth
and John Surman
. Like many jazz players he was in demand as a session player across genreshe's on Jack Bruce
's magnificent Songs For A Tailor
(Polydor, 1969), as well as albums by The Faces, Memphis Slim
, Working Week
and Jah Wobble. Still Happy
is a relative rarity in the Beckett discographyan album from Beckett as leader rather than sideman. He recorded the session for an edition of BBC Radio 2's Jazz Club
, broadcast in August 1974versions of "No Time For Hello" and "Bracelets Of Sound" were included on Beckett's Joy Unlimited
(Cadillac Records, 1975), with guitarist Ray Russell
rather than the twin horns present on this recording, but "Still Happy" is previously unreleased.
Beckett is definitely at the center of things, but he gives plenty of space to his bandmates, themselves some of the leading lights of the British jazz scene. The tunesthree of Beckett's originalsare reflective of their time, fusing jazz, rock, funk and more into an exciting, vital, sound.
The album opens with Paul Hart's soft-toned, three-note bass riff on "Bracelets Of Sound." As he repeats the phrase the other musicians gradually join in, slowly building layers of sound before Beckett arrives with a sweet, plaintive melody. Hart closes the album too, after joining drummer John Webb in driving "No Time For Hello" along with some powerful playing he ends the track with three gentle harmonicsnot before Don Weller
grabs the spotlight for a tenor solo. "Still Happy" is as upbeat and joyous as the title suggestsWebb's propulsive drumming gives it a real feeling of movement, Beckett's solo is unrestrained and celebratory. Still Happy
is the first album, on vinyl, for the splendidly-named My Only Desire Records. It's a fine debut release for the label and a fine reminder of Beckett's talent.
Harry Beckett: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alan Wakeman: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Don Weller: tenor saxophone; Brian Miller: electric piano; Paul Hart: electric bass; John Webb: drums; Robin Jones: percussion.