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Joe Harriott

(1928—1973) saxophonist, composer, and bandleader


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b. Joe Arthurlin Harriott, 15 July 1928, Jamaica, West Indies, d. 2 January 1973, London, England. After performing in dance bands in the West Indies, Harriott emigrated to the UK in 1951 and quickly established himself as a formidable bebop player on alto and baritone saxophones. After working with Tony Kinsey, Ronnie Scott and other leading British players, Harriott formed his own group, believing that his career needed to go in a less orthodox direction than the one most beboppers were following. In the late 50s, after a protracted spell in hospital recovering from tuberculosis, a period he used to develop his musical thoughts, he formed a band with Coleridge Goode, Phil Seamen, Ellsworth ‘Shake’ Keane and Pat Smythe which explored Harriott’s notions of ‘abstract music’ on three groundbreaking albums, Free Form, Abstract and Movement. Coincidentally, this music appeared at the same time as the free jazz of Ornette Coleman but differed markedly in its concept and realization ‘of the various components comprising jazz today, ’ Harriott explained in his notes to Abstract, ‘constant time signatures, a steady four-four tempo, themes and predictable harmonic variations, fixed division of the chorus by bar lines, and so on - we aim to retain at least one in each piece. But we may well - if the mood seems to us to demand it - dispense with all the others... (our music) is best listened to as a series of different pictures - for it is after all by definition an attempt in free improvisation to paint, as it were, freely in sound.’

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From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.


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