Thursday, 19 January 2012

Joe Harriott: 'no set pattern'

I thought I'd post the only interviews I've ever seen with this magnificent Jamaican saxophonist, who pioneered free jazz and recorded some of the most adventurous and imaginative music of the 1960s. The first of them is from Down Beat of September 10th 1964. At that time Harriott's career was in good shape. He was busy on Britain's thriving jazz circuit, he had recorded four well-received (if low-selling) albums - Southern HorizonsFree Form, Abstract and Movement - and had his groundbreaking Indo-Jazz Fusions collaboration with John Mayer ahead of him. Valerie Wilmer, who knew him well, examines the progress of his approach and style in detail, and there are several illuminating remarks from the great man:

The second interview appeared in Melody Maker of October 14th 1967, when Harriott's innovative collaboration with John Mayer was in full swing:

By the time the third interview appeared, in Melody Maker on February 6th 1971, times had become hard for Harriott, who was scratching an existence playing in regional pubs - a ludicrous ignominy for such a proud and gifted musician. No substantial recordings by him had appeared since August 1969 (his mighty collaboration with Goan guitarist Amancio D'Silva, Hum Dono), and though he speaks tantalisingly of a forthcoming album to be entitled Collage, it never happened. Joe Harriott died of cancer in the Wessex Radiotherapy Unit on January 2nd 1973. Penniless, peripatetic and obscure, he was only 44. 

For good measure, click here to see the only known footage of him.


  1. Thanks for the interviews - really appreciated!

  2. Great article!!! many thanks. Do you know what page the Feb '71 article was on?