Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Double Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Allan Ganley
Flute – Chris Taylor
Piano – Pat Smythe
Sitar – Diwan Motihar
Tabla – Keshav Sathe
Tambura – Chandrahas Paigankar
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Kenny Wheeler
Violin, Harpsichord – John Mayer
In 1952 the Calcutta-born violinist and composer John Mayer landed in what would become his adopted homeland. Dark-skinned, he knew all about colour bars and prejudice. He overcame to establish himself as a sought-after orchestral violinist and composer.
While he is best known in jazz circles for the Joe Harriott and John Mayer Double Quintet and John Mayer’s Indo-Jazz Fusions, it is for his whole canon that he gained his place in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – Britain’s history told through biography. Mayer was that important. Of the two projects reissued here, the five-movement Études (1969) is closer to the style of composition associated with Harriott.
John Mayer, Kolkata-borne of Anglo-Indian parents and classically trained violinist who was part of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was a pioneering composer of Indo-Jazz Fusion. His tenuous earlier albums from the 1960s were more chamber works blended with jazz, but his 1997 album was more fully jazz developed. In this remastered album from 2008, classical formats were the structures of a cleverly conceived and composed Third Stream fusion, written in 1969, that works exceedingly well. The musicians include violin (Mayer himself), flute, trumpet and flugelhorn, tenor saxophone and clarinet, piano, bass, drums and for Indian spice, sitar, tampura drone, and tabla. The Etudes are of five movements. Introduction and Rondo repeats themes with various instrumental solo improvisation and rhythms. Capriccio allows whimsy built upon 13-beat. jai-tal, background, and I think of bandleader-composer Don Ellis, who loved such unusual rhythms. Serenade is a romantic Baroque-inspired piece with beautiful violin lyricism. The tabla soon enters with sitar ornamentation, the middle section is a jazz expansion, and the Indo-jazz fusion continues with tabla and drum solos. Toccata designates an instrumental (versus cantata) and typically involves fast, light touching, plucking, staccato; the elements weave and come to sharp conclusion. Saraband is in 3/4 time and is an ancient dance.