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The Joe Harriott Quintet

Formation: Live '61 (LP)

Label: Jazz In Britain

Format: LP

Genre: Jazz


Recorded live in London before a studio audience on the 24th August 1961. Previously unissued. By the time this EP is released 60 years will have elapsed since the recordings contained within it were made, and nearly 50 years since the untimely death of pioneering West Indian free jazz altoist Joe Harriott on the 2nd January 1973, aged 42. Only in the very recent past has Harriott started to receive anything approaching the accolades he undoubtedly deserved during his lifetime. For those new to Harriott’s revolutionary sound, this is a perfectly good place to start. All of the tracks - barring Dizzy Reece’s Shepherd’s Serenade - appeared in studio form on the Quintet’s now seminal albums Free Form and Abstract, which were recorded by the same lineup as featured here, save for Les Condon who replaced regular trumpeter Shake Keane for a brief period in the summer of 1961. This is one of only two currently known recordings to include Condon in the lineup.

Harriott’s concept for Free Form involved the blending of several different genres of music. Initially bebop, trad jazz and Harriott‘s Jamaican musical roots comprised the most prominent stylistic influences on the music, but even in the early experimentation of Free Form it is already possible to detect hints of 20th century classical and folk music which would become more significant elements as the idea developed over the Quintet’s next two albums Abstract and Movement. For those already well versed in Harriott’s ‘60s output there is plenty to marvel at and absorb. Something one is immediately struck by is how much of a likeness there is between these live versions and the original album recordings, despite their apparent ‘freedom’. Here one can now fully appreciate the ‘form’ of Harriott’s concept, which only becomes clear when comparing live and studio recordings. Each piece has a specific focused direction in which it is travelling, and some passages which previously seemed improvised are revealed instead to be incredibly well crafted and rehearsed ideas.

A quick word on the recordings themselves which were sent by a donor who wished to remain anonymous to Richard Moore at the British Jazz Sound Archive, and subsequently passed on to us. The tapes were transferred to digital by persons unknown some years ago and then sadly disposed of. As a result these tracks all emanate from that final transfer, and some minor issues with the transfers that could not be corrected at a later date are still present. This explains for example the increase in pitch at the beginning of Shepherd’s Serenade on Side B, as the deck used to make the final transfer got up to speed. We feel that this though is a very minor issue overall and should not detract from what is otherwise a stellar performance and a historically significant release.

Cat. number: n/a
Year: 2021

Joe Harriott - alto sax
Les Condon - trumpet, flugelhorn
Pat Smythe - piano
Coleridge Goode - bass
Phil Seamen - drums

Front cover illustration by Piergiorgio Cupellini
Audio provided by the British Jazz Sound Archive
Executive Producer John Thurlow

Produced by Matt Parker for Jazz In Britain Ltd.