Formation: Live '61

by The Joe Harriott Quintet

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    Previously unreleased historic recordings. Beautifully packaged 180g 12" 45rpm vinyl. Flip-back sleeve. Strictly limited pressing run of 500 copies worldwide.
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  • A remarkable new and groundbreaking study from Jazz In Britain’s very own Matt Parker.

    Subversion Through Jazz examines the beginning of the British progressive jazz (BPJ) movement from 1956 to 1964, attempting to identify and plot the progress of its coming into being. This eight-year period of inception was set against the backdrop of two specifically relevant world events: the failed Hungarian revolution in 1956; and the Cuban Missile Crisis, a potentially apocalyptic nuclear standoff between the United States and the USSR in the Gulf of Mexico in 1962. Like many art forms in the UK, British jazz underwent a paradigm shift during this period, transforming from imitator to innovator. A new generation of post-war musicians - spearheaded by the West Indian alto-saxophonist Joe Harriott - discovered their own sound, no longer aping American Jazz traditions but instead seeking out their own methods of expression within improvisation, embracing hugely diverse influences such as Blues, Indian music, twentieth-century Classical music, Rock’n’roll, African music, classic and contemporary poetry and literature, Caribbean music, Folk, R&B, and Soul, forging them into a uniquely British identity which would in turn influence musicians across the globe.

    The obsession with British art and culture which was all-pervasive in the pop and rock music of the UK from 1965 onwards had its roots in BPJ. The musicians involved in the movement were the first post-war contemporary jazz players outside the U.S. to meld an artistic nationalism to their music, introducing non-musical influences from the worlds of British and European art and literature, left-wing politics and musical influences from outside the sphere of jazz, such as the abstract classical compositions of Cornelius Cardew and Anton Webern, brass bands, and the music-hall traditions of Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

    The location of most of these artistic developments – an area of roughly four square miles in and around Soho, London - was simultaneously the covert battleground of the British Secret Service department MI5 and their adversaries the Soviet Russian KGB, an old empire pitted against a new one, and at least one significant Communist of concern to MI5, the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, took a very serious interest in the British jazz scene at this time. Inspired by his cousin, the British jazz record producer and label-owner Denis Preston, and the Italian Communist intellectual Antonio Gramsci, Hobsbawm embedded himself in the movement, authoring a study of it in 1959 entitled The Jazz Scene, for which he adopted, as jazz writer for the New Statesman magazine, the pseudonym Francis Newton, an alias he had been developing for three years prior, unbeknownst to the British agents who were surveilling him.
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  • Full Digital Discography Full Digital Discography

    Get all 26 Jazz In Britain releases available on Bandcamp and save 20%.

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality downloads of The Complete Hopbine '69, Ken Wheeler: Some Gnu Ones, Inclusivity, Formation: Live '61, Revisiting Tanglewood 63: The Early Tapes, Solar Session, Blue Beginnings, Mandala, and 18 more. , and , .

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1.
Formation 05:03
2.
Coda 04:52
3.
4.
5.

about

Recorded live in London before a studio audience on the 24th August 1961. Previously unissued.

By the time this EP is released 60 years will have elapsed since the recordings contained within it were made, and nearly 50 years since the untimely death of pioneering West Indian free jazz altoist Joe Harriott on the 2nd January 1973, aged 42. Only in the very recent past has Harriott started to receive anything approaching the accolades he undoubtedly deserved during his lifetime. For those new to Harriott’s revolutionary sound, this is a perfectly good place to start. All of the tracks - barring Dizzy Reece’s Shepherd’s Serenade - appeared in studio form on the Quintet’s now seminal albums Free Form and Abstract, which were recorded by the same lineup as featured here, save for Les Condon who replaced regular trumpeter Shake Keane for a brief period in the summer of 1961. This is one of only two currently known recordings to include Condon in the lineup.

Harriott’s concept for Free Form involved the blending of several different genres of music. Initially bebop, trad jazz and Harriott‘s Jamaican musical roots comprised the most prominent stylistic influences on the music, but even in the early experimentation of Free Form it is already possible to detect hints of 20th century classical and folk music which would become more significant elements as the idea developed over the Quintet’s next two albums Abstract and Movement. For those already well versed in Harriott’s ‘60s output there is plenty to marvel at and absorb. Something one is immediately struck by is how much of a likeness there is between these live versions and the original album recordings, despite their apparent ‘freedom’. Here one can now fully appreciate the ‘form’ of Harriott’s concept, which only becomes clear when comparing live and studio recordings. Each piece has a specific focused direction in which it is travelling, and some passages which previously seemed improvised are revealed instead to be incredibly well crafted and rehearsed ideas.

A quick word on the recordings themselves which were sent by a donor who wished to remain anonymous to Richard Moore at the British Jazz Sound Archive, and subsequently passed on to us. The tapes were transferred to digital by persons unknown some years ago and then sadly disposed of. As a result these tracks all emanate from that final transfer, and some minor issues with the transfers that could not be corrected at a later date are still present. This explains for example the increase in pitch at the beginning of Shepherd’s Serenade on Side B, as the deck used to make the final transfer got up to speed. We feel that this though is a very minor issue overall and should not detract from what is otherwise a stellar performance and a historically significant release.

credits

released July 24, 2021

Joe Harriott - alto sax
Les Condon - trumpet, flugelhorn
Pat Smythe - piano
Coleridge Goode - bass
Phil Seamen - drums


Front cover illustration by Piergiorgio Cupellini
Audio provided by the British Jazz Sound Archive
Executive Producer John Thurlow

Produced by Matt Parker for Jazz In Britain Ltd.

© Jazz in Britain Ltd. 2021

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Jazz In Britain London, UK

A not-for-profit organisation, whose aim is to collect, curate, preserve, celebrate and promote the legacy of British jazz musicians. The archive collects, curates and preserves off-air and other recordings of British jazz performances.
The organisation will publish books, release vinyl, CDs and downloads, working in partnership with musicians and their families.
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