Joe Harriott: A Restless Soul
Despite critical acclaim Joe Harriott’s music went largely ignored in his life and he was never able to live comfortably. Neither could he afford to keep regular working bands together. It is a sad but familiar fixture in the history of jazz. The story of unrecognised genius, brave innovators ahead of their time who fell by the wayside, the lonely outsider left only with empty pockets and a restless energy to burn. This is a romantic distortion. Joe Harriott spent his remaining years freelancing around the UK with pick up bands, sleeping on locals’ couches and floors. His closing years were a sad reflection of those of Charlie Parker; dying a lonely and tragic death of cancer in 1973 he was 44.
Joe Harriott’s music is receiving new attention by younger jazz musicians. In 1998, reedman Ken Vandermark paid tribute to the altoist, leading a quartet at the Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music, in Chicago; producing new arrangements of his work. And at the 2003 London Jazz festival, an exciting young British quintet played some of his tunes and new ones written in a similar vein to great effect, amply illustrating Joe’s continuing relevance to today’s music. Joe Harriott lives on and his music still sounds alive, vital and compelling.
Joe Harriott: Free Form and Abstract