I remember back in the 80s hearing Joe Harriott on BBC Radio Jazz Club and marvelling at the wide range of moods and textures his quintet produced. One number he played then was "I know your heart" from "High Spirits". It has taken me a long time to venture into this jazz adaptation of songs from the musical, and I'm so pleased I have done so! Wonderful transformations of already wonderful songs! The other CD has some really tasty jazz on it too, with at times crisp and punchy and at others really delicate playing. Some of the tracks are from the group's more experimental repertoire, so-called 'free form' jazz. From experience I know this kind of jazz is great fun to play, but it is for some people not so rewarding to listen to! But it's worth the effort! A good buy at a great price!
For fans of Joe Harriott and forward-looking jazz in general, this is a welcome re-issue on CD. "Movement" is what really matters here, and it's almost a crime that it was a deleted super-rarity of a collector's item for so long. "Free from" laid out the blueprint for Harriott's own conception of abstract music or "painting pictures in sound" as he put it, "Abstract" consolidated and refined the idiom, but the abstract tracks on "Movement" take this path even farther. The contrast with the straight-ahead tracks which constitute almost half the album put the abstact ones into sharper relief. It's a thoughtful approach to abandoning one or more of the strictures that governed hard bop at the time, changes, bar lines, regular time etc., and is actually more adventurous than what Ornette Coleman was doing then, maybe having more in common with Mingus's "extended form." In "Spaces" for example there are plenty of rests, but each instrument plays unaccompanied except during the theme; it has moments of great lyricism. But the stream of consciousness this music involves also allows for moments of musical anger or paranoia, as in "Beams". I can't help feeling people like Barry Guy and John Stevens were influenced by these records. It may be significant that after this Harriott recorded no more abstract music; maybe he thought this was as far as he could take it. The interplay of all the musicians is a delight to hear. The straight ahead tracks on "Movement" are concise, lively and swinging and show how Harriott, Keane and the others had mastered the hard bop idiom. "High spirits" is an album of Noel Coward tunes, more light-weight of course but still eminently swinging and for all Harriott fans definitely worth hearing.
It is the Movement CD that makes this re-issue essential. I've lived with this music on vinyl since 1964 in mono. It is wonderful to hear it in stereo for the first time. The re-mastering by Dutton is superb. The CD has somewhat lighter bass than the LP, but the sound stage is very clear and the music sounds open and airy. The tracks are a sequence of straight-ahead swinging hard bop pieces interspersed with free-form music. The two free-form tracks, Beams and Spaces, really benefit from stereo sound. They are emotionally draining in their intensity, and on Spaces the inky-black silence in the `spaces' only adds to the intensity. They would not be out of place in a classical concert - they are just really fine music. Blues on Blues is beautiful, delicate, sensitive music. The hard bop tracks in between come as a relief, and they really swing. The final track, Movement, is plaintive and anguished and then just dies away, and you will continue to sit in silence. You've really been taken on an emotional journey. I've returned to this album many times over nearly 50 years, and I highly recommend it. This band was among the finest in the UK, and I think this was their finest LP. Surely the group Back Door must have listened to this music. And now, could Dutton work the same magic on another rare British LP from 1964, Boom Jackie Boom Chick by Paul Gonsalves on Vocalion...?