Joe Harriott ‘Movement’/’High Spirits’ 2 CD (Vocalion) 4/5

Jamaican alto saxophonist Joe Harriott’s reputation has never been higher thanks to a wonderful box set from Proper that enabled a wider audience to sample his music. This excellent pairing of albums from 1963 and 1964 captures his regular band in fine fettle with an identical line up of Shake Kean on trumpet, Pat Smythe on piano, Coleridge Goode on bass and Bobby Orr on dums on both CD sides. The first album oscillates between blues-inflected numbers and more avant-garde free form, but overall it is more soulful than say ‘Abstract’. Even on the more angular numbers such as ‘Beams’ and the title track, Harriott and co are still capable of retaining a blues feel. If one had to make any parallel, then it would probably be with the mid-1960s work of Jackie McLean on ‘Destination Out’ minus the vibes, or even Eric Dolphy in less exploratory mood. A fine swinging blues emerges on ‘Count twelve’. The second album is a departure in one important respect; it was the music score to a film composed by Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray and thus if one were to make any kind of tenuous comparison, then it might be with Freddie Redd’s album ‘The connection’ that also featured Jackie McLean. Arguably the most compelling number here is ‘Blue on blue’ which is surely a nod to the seminal ‘Blues on Green’ from ‘Kind of Blue’. The piece ‘Home sweet heaven’ features some lovely lyrical alto playing from Harriott. In general the second album is more concise in nature as is befitting of a film soundtrack. Full marks to Vocalion for reproducing the original sleeve notes in full and at a font that is easily legible. Other re-issuers should take note.

Tim Stenhouse