Portrait Of Jenny
Now's The Time
Darn That Dream September Song Abstract Doodle Mr. Blueshead
Joe Harriott - Alto Sax Kenny Baker - Trumpet Ray Premru - Bass Trumpet/Trombone Mo Miller - French Horn Bob Efford - Bass Clarinet/Clarinet/Flute Willaiam Bennett - Flute Roger Pugh - Harpsichord Stan Tracey - Piano Pat Smythe - Piano Lenny Bush - Bass Dennis Bowden - Bass Bobby Orr - Drums Monty Babson - Bongos Lansdowne String Quartet
Recorded Lansdowne Studios, London, 26 September 1967
Supervision/Sleeve Design: Denis Preston
Engineer: Adrian Kerridge
I first made records with Joe Harriott in 1954. At that time Joe was a fairly recent arrival from his native Jamaica, and a relative freshman on the British jazz scene. Yet he had already established an enviable reputation - amongst musicians rather than critics - as an outsatanding disciple of the Charlie Parker school of alto playing. And, indded, many idiosyncratic Parkerisms are still apparent in his wotk today.
These first recordings were in the the familiar "jazz quartet" idiom - solo instrument (in this case alto saxophone) and three rhythm. But in 1955 we embarked upon what I believe to have been the first jazz recordings of its type in this country - JOE HARRIOTT WITH STRINGS. (The arranger and musical director for this "extended play" experiment was the redoubtable Laurie Johnson, and the titles, which I well recall, were I'll Remember April and Easy To Love).
Recording with Harriott has always been a rewarding and profluent experience - most especially in recent years - when we spearheaded two major breakthroughs on the British jazz scene. In 1960, the first album of Harriott's highly personalised "free form" appeared, both here and in America. And in 1962, a further album in this idiom - ABSTRACT - received the ultimate accolade, a 5-star review in the American jazz magazine "Down Beat" - which doubtless contributed to the substantial sales it enjoyed in the USA.
Then, in 1966, in collaboration with the immensely talented Indian composer - John Mayer, we launched our first recordings of Indo-Jazz - a fusion of East and West which set new standards of musical concept and performance by British-based artists. Since America was the birthplace of jazz and stamping-ground of most of its many adventures, acceptance in the homeland may be justly regarded as a seal of approval. Both INDO-JAZZ SUITE and INDO-JAZZ FUSIONS, its successor, have enjoyed release in the USA on a highly-regarded specialist marque, and both have been jazz best-sellers in this, their country of origin.
Although this new album, PERSONAL PORTRAIT, is autobiographical in content, there is much in its conception which is fresh and forward-looking - thanks largely to the skill and sensitivity of our arranger, David Mack. For example, there is his dextrous and utterly contemporary handling of the unusual instrumentation of what we might call the "blowing band" - in Saga, Darn That Dream and Now's The Time. And then there's his subtle and adroit writing for string quartet, flute and harpsichord - the players of which are all from "across the tracks" in the classical world. Abstract Doodle is, in its own right, something of a novelty, and something we'd never before essayed - a free form improvisation for alto saxophone and piano.
The use of string quartet was the result of unabashed nostalgia on the part of both Joe Harriott and myself. The former recalled with pleasure his early efforts with strings and expressed a very firm desire to work once again within that framework, whilst I, in turn, recalled earlier experiments with string quartet per se - notably an album with clarinettist Archie Semple (as early as 1961) in which Johnny Scott was the arranger, and, more recently, Tony Coe (TONY'S BASEMENT) for which David Mack wrote the scores.
Saga stemmed from another kind of nostalgia. This is a cyclical piece, beginning and ending with a well-loved mento from the Jamaican folkstore - folkishly projected on alto saxophone, with bongos et al, and progressing, by way of a delicious duo for muted trumpet and flute, to a typically aggressive Stan Tracey solo piano, and thence into a stretch of perfervid improviastion by our chief soloist.
Now's The Time is a deepfelt tribute to Charlie Parker, that great progenitor of contemporary jazz and the most important single and acknowledged influence on Harriott himself. The progression of background figures which accompany his opening spell of improvisation are, in themselves, almost as striking as the playing which overlays them and vertiginous Tracey solo which follows.
Whereas Now's The Time is fiery and propulsive, Mr Blueshead is a blues of another colour - deeper both in shade and texture, slower and more relaxed in tempo. The theme, by David Mack, is utterly ravishing, and ravishingly exposed by flautist William Bennett. I have always judged the true fibre of a jazz musician by his interpretation of blues, and his ability to express - through this most terse and magnificent of musical forms - the most deeply felt of his musical emotions. As a consequence I have recorded many blues performances in my twenty years of record production, but seldom have I been so moved by a performance for which I hold some responsibility, nor more deeply indebted to the artist who has made such a profound experience possible. Truth to tell, this piece alone justifies the title of the album.