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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm Sorry Youv'e Heard This Before, 5 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The Joe Harriott Story (Audio CD)
The first two discs appeared o the Giant Steps label a couple of years ago under the title "Killer Joe" and consist of Joe's early recordings with Tony Kinsey and Bill LeSage issued on the long defunct Esquire label. There are also glimpses of Joe the sensitive accompanist on the track "You'll Never Know" an old war time song interpreted here by Lita Roza (sounding a little like June Christie). Rather underappreciated, Miss Roza was a mainstay of the Ted Heath Orchestra whom she sang with for several years in the fifties. As far as I know "Killer Joe" is still available.

There are also tracks from sessions for recorded for Pye Nixa (Polygon) where Joe is accompanied by a string section directed by Laurie Johnson, plainly a reference to the Parker With Strings sessions, but Joe, whilst giving a Parker-like impression was always his own man. Two tracks (the only two recorded) from a 1956 MGM ep called "Jazz Brittania" (the other side of the EP featured a brace of tunes by Don Rendell). All this music is worth having. but - as is so often the problem with Properboxes - there is much duplication (the October 11th 1955 Ronnie Scott Big Band Sessions) have alo appeared on their Ronnie Scott set and more recently on their Phil Seamen set. What makes this more unfortunate is that in 1954 Joe recorded four titles (on two 78 RPM records) with Kenny Graham's Afro-Cubists, that have never been issued on microgroove, let alone CD - their sole issue was in the autumn of 1954 on those original 78s. Did Proper really feel it necessary to reissue three-quarters of Esquire EP85 again?.

The other two discs feature worthwhile music from later Harriott groups, including some of his "free form" music from Columbia (EMI). This music is just about out of copyright, but the set ends with the June 20th 1967 Melodisc recording "Swings High", which saw a return to Joe's hard-bop roots. This album featuring Stu Hamer in the front line (trumpet, brother of better known trumpeter Ian Hamer). It has to be said the recording quality of this 1967 set ius not good - far too "toppy" but it has been that way since the Doug Dobell produced session first appeared on a Melodisc LP in the late 60s - little can be done to improve the sound.These tracks, like the free form pieces (which are very accessible today - and always were of higher musical value than so much so-called "avant-garde" jazz of the period - also feature giant talents like Pat Smythe on piano and Joe's musical partner Shake Keane. How Proper Music have circumvented the 50 year copyright rule, I can't imagine. As a matter of fact the "official" issue on Cadillac is still available as well, though as this costs almost as much as these 4 CDs I can understand why people would wish to buy the Properbox set to get all the other excellent tracks.

I do question Proper Music's ethics, that said, in my opinion Joe was a genius, widely underappreciated, almost ignored, unlike, say, Tubby Hayes who has seen a great tresurgence of interest in recent years thanks to many reissues and first issues of live material. Joe died on January 2nd 1973, a mere six months before Tubby, and very few live recordings have come top light to bolster his meagre discography a session called "Live At Harry's", recorded in 1963 has a fitful existence on the poorly distributed Rare Music label). I think Joe is at least the equal of Tubby, and deserves to be heard and appreciatyed for the fantastic alto player he was. Don't worry that there are two versions of "Tuesday Morning Swing" - they are from different sessions and in any case, Joe never played the same solo twice.

A roster of great British talent like Pat Smythe, Phil Seamen, Cooleridge Goode, Harry South and Hank Shaw makes this set an essential purchase, even if much of it is available elsewhere.

Please note: When I wrote the above, I was working with just the 4CDs. I have now been sent the booklet and I discover that the 1967 Melodisc tracks ("Swings High") has in fact been legitimately licenced to Proper Music by John Jack, who owns Cadillac Records. I apologise for the previous remarks
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely under-rated talent who died far too young, 14 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: The Joe Harriott Story (Audio CD)
Much is sometimes made of Harriott's debt to Charlie Parker but, while the influence is often clear (and why not - its a factor that affected generations), his sound is unmistakeable - raw and urgent as if he had almost too much to pack into each chorus.

So it was mind-broadening to hear him, though only on a couple of tracks, with strings on this incredible value 4 CD set, which also includes full personnel listings except for an uncredited trumpet on one track, and a good sleeve note. In fact there is a wide range of settings, mostly quartets but also larger groups (not to mention one bizarrely unexpected track from Lita Rosa), in which his great talent shines. Many of the quartets also give good space to the talents of Bill le Sage, Tony Kinsey and the volcanic Phil Seaman, while trumpeters principally include Shake Keane and the underrecorded Hank Shaw.

The dates of the sessions run from quite early in Harriott's career up to the early freeform work. I thought I would hate the latter, but in fact it all sounds easily accessible now, and they make some very attractive noises. Potential buyers should note that none of the Indo Jazz fusion work is included.

Really, the price of this set is so absurdly low as to make this an easy purchase, as well as one that is essential to anyone with an interest in the development of jazz in Britain.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent retrospective of a neglected genius, 1 Jan. 2012
This 4 CD package is packed with nearly 4 1/2 hours of wonderful music. It includes a comprehensive and varied survey of studio recordings featuring Joe Harriott both as leader and featured soloist with other outfits, mainly the Tony Kinsey Quartet and Ronnie Scott Orchestra, on music mainly recorded and originally issued as EPs from February 1954 through to April 1960. It then adds to this the "Free Form" album originally recorded in 1961 for Jazzland and the 1967 "Swing High" album originally produced by Doug Dobell in 1967.

I won't repeat anything from the previous excellent review, which rightly points out that a lot of this music is available in other forms, the first 2 CDs in particular duplicating content from "Killer Joe", which at the time of writing is also available from Amazon either as double-CD or MP3 download.

While I can't vouch for the sound quality on Killer Joe, I can report that this package is up to the usual excellent Proper Box standards, as is the packaging, which includes the usual excellent booklet with informative potted biography and full discographical details of all the tracks. Plus, of course, for roughly the same price you get more than twice as much music ... Interestingly, too, Proper are now flirting with MP3 downloads which, at the time of writing, Amazon are offering as a bargain-price for a single-album download of all 54 tracks - saving another fiver or so over the CD package, but of course you miss out on the informative booklet, .... (Or, if you have much of this music already, you also have the options of single-track downloading to supplement what you already have, you can easily do the maths ...).

For those of you who don't know Joe Harriott's music, most of it might be characterised as top-notch British Bop, with Harriott's impassioned alto sound and thoughtful, increasingly original and technically excellent improvisation making it some of the best British jazz available. The exception to this description is the Joe Harriott Quintet "Free Form" album, which is a ground-breaking exercise in producing accessible and enjoyable jazz music without any set harmony or chord progressions. (Fear not, this is no angry, unstructured freak-out, but a series of thoughtful and carefully crafted group meditations and improvisations with different unifying themes). Harriott followed this up with the equally excellent (IMHO) album "Abstract", which is not included in this package but is separately available and is also highly recommended.

Incidentally, Harriott went on to lead a second major career innovation when he recorded three albums fusing jazz with Indian music. How a major jazz improviser with not one but two major ground-breaking musical innovations to his name could die in obscurity and remain largely forgotten and neglected ever since, instead of being a nationally and internationally heralded musical superstar, universally recognised for the genius that he undoubtedly was, is impossible to justify. The explanation probably lies in mass medias failure to promote and mass audiences failure to appreciate real jazz music, or indeed genuinely challenging music of any kind, plus the fact that British jazz is generally dismissed as a poor cousin of the US "genuine article". But even so, Harriott represents a mass musical oversight of unsanctionable proportions.

So, overall, for the quality and importance of the music, the quality of the sound and the packaging and for value-for-money, this has to get a 5 star rating. If you don't have this music already, you should get it. If you have a lot of it already, this give you options for acquiring the rest ... it's all good!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost forgotten, underrated, but brilliant, 9 Feb. 2012
By 
Mr. D. Norman "lapsed statistician" (Gloucestershire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Joe Harriott Story (Audio CD)
You'd need to be a fairly ancient modern jazz fan to remember Joe Harriot, but if you were there you'd know how good he was. He was fast, lyrical, seemed to be able and willing to play with musicians of all styles and wrote some interesting stuff. The CDs in this collection focus largely on his work with modern jazz stylists and some of the arrangements sound slightly dated, but Harriot's class shines through. If you like the sound of hard boppy, fiercely played alto by a player who really cared, THEN BUY THIS.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten jazzman available at last, 30 Jan. 2013
By 
Iain Scott (Houston, Renfrewshire, GB) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Joe Harriott Story (Audio CD)
It's taken too long for this set to become available. Joe Harriott was capable of very exciting solos and an originality that went appreciated in the USA. This shows his development and the range of his achievements.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Joe Harriet Story, 12 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: The Joe Harriott Story (Audio CD)
Had some of the tracks. Bur this is a great selection by a tremendous artist. HIghly recommended. As usual, Proper have done the job.
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