Monday, May 14, 2018

The Joe Harriott Quintet - 1963 - Movement

The Joe Harriott Quintet 

01. Morning Blue
02. Beams
03. Count Twelve
04. Face In The Crowd
05. Revival
06. Blues On Blues
07. Spaces
08. Spiritual Blues
09. Movement

Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Bobby Orr
Piano – Pat Smythe
Producer [Supervision] – Denis Preston
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Shake Keane

Recorded in London, 1963.

Harriott's career is beautifully recalled in Alan Robertson's biography, Fire In His Soul (Northway 2012). The Jamaican alto saxophonist recorded and released ten LPs for Denis Preston's Lansdowne Series between 1960-69. Of these, three saw him experiment with an abstract approach to jazz that paralleled but was quite different from saxophonist Ornette Coleman's work in the USA. Free Form (1960) was reissued last year as part of the four-CD The Joe Harriott Story (Properbox, 2011). Abstract (1961), his best album, came out on Universal in 1999 but has long since been deleted. Movement (1963) is the third and last in that sequence. As to the reasons why Harriott abandoned his experiments, these are well-documented in Robertson's biography and elsewhere on this site.

Movement is perhaps the best representation of a typical Joe Harriott Quintet gig of the period, combining as it does straight-ahead tracks with his free-form work. British pianist Brian Dee has remarked, that Harriott's way of mixing sets in this way did not help his cause, leaving audiences puzzled and unsure about how they should respond. Indeed, there are intimations of this when hearing this record. And yet, that does not ultimately detract from it. In fact, it allows conclusions to be drawn and, more than that, the opportunity to see how the experimental stuff is to some degree derived from and related to the more bop-oriented music.

So, it opens with the easy swing of "Morning Blue" with Harriott's alto warm, sunny and optimistic and Shake Keane's flugelhorn light as air. "Beams" follows, echoing Harriott's two previous records in several ways. Firstly, it is immediately apparent that this is very much a group music. The horns, in particular, seem almost mutually dependent, with Harriott and Keane interlocking and playing off each other. The music is held in place by Coleridge Goode's walking bass, with piano and even drums having greater licence within the rhythm section. Secondly, it's clear that this music is not really modal at all; rather, it is developed from melodic fragments and motifs.

"Count Twelve" is pure bebop rooted in the blues with some simply lovely flugelhorn from Keane and delightful piano from Pat Smythe. The relationship between Goode and drummer andBobby Orr here is almost symbiotic, while Harriott's own solo is wild and free-flowing.

Michael Garrick's quirky "Face in the Crowd" follows. Originally, it accompanied Jeremy Robson's poem of the same name on Poetry & Jazz-Record Two (Dutton-Vocalion, 1967) and on which Harriott played as part of Garrick's quintet. It's a fine, angular performance that sits well with Harriott's own more abstract writing. "Revival" is one of the saxophonist's most Caribbean-inflected tunes and is perhaps the record's highlight, whilst Garrick's "Blues on Blues" reveals perfectly how very, very good this group really was.

The album concludes with three tracks: "Spaces," which was arguably the most abstract piece Harriott ever recorded; the fine, if mainstream bop "Spiritual Blues," with some great bowed bass from Goode and excellent drums from Bobby Orr; and the album's title track. "Movement" itself has an intensity not found in all of Harriott's free form work. It's a stunning group tour de force, again building from comparatively simple melodic materials into something that is dark, brooding and even slightly unsettling. Of the two records in this package, Movement is the one that is absolutely essential. Were it not for these earlier achievements, High Spirits might come more highly recommended. It is of a much lighter weight but it does have its share of pleasures. It is doubtful that Harriott could ever have made a bad record and, by most other people's standards, this would be top flight.

1 comment: