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Joe Harriott - Fire in His Soul

Authors: Alan Robertson

Published by Northway Books

ISBN: 9780955788857

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A second edition, revised and enlarged, of the biography of a brilliant saxophone player who came from Jamaica to Britain in 1951 and played a key role in the development of jazz in the following two decades.

'Parker? There's them over here can play a few aces too.' Measuring himself alongside his mentor Charlie Parker, Jamaican alto saxophonist Joe Harriott had no doubts about his talent and abilities - and with good reason. A brilliant instrumentalist and a visionary in the development of jazz, Harriott gained legions of admirers for his fiery playing in Britain and beyond before embarking on a quest to extend the limits of the music. His unique concept of free form, evolved independently of American developments, heralded the emergence of contemporary European jazz. Later, with John Mayer, he pioneered cross-cultural fusions of jazz and Indian music. Neglected in his lifetime by an unappreciative arts establishment, Harriott produced a body of recorded work that is increasingly influential and widely acclaimed. Alan Robertson's book, based on the author's extensive interviews with many of those who knew Joe best, has been revised and updated to include important new material giving an even richer picture of the triumphs and tragedies of Harriott's remarkable life.

Alan Robertson is an Edinburgh writer who first became interested in Joe Harriott through reading Ian Carr's book, Music Outside. He listened to Harriott's music and became fascinated by the man, his life story and his achievements. Following his interest to its logical conclusion, he interviewed a great many people and, with the support of his wife Lorna and son Grant, wrote his first book, the biography of Joe Harriott. Following publication, and having been contacted by other people who had known Joe Harriott well, he could not resist pursuing the subject further. The new material casts much additional light on the man, the musician, and the problems he encountered as a Jamaican in Britain in the mid-twentieth century.

Contents: Foreword by Gary Crosby. 1. Very much taken with his instrument. 2. The London Scene 1951. 3. Building a reputation. 4. A fence over which few are prepared to step. 5. So far nobody has thrown anything at us. 6. America takes notice. 7. Poetry and jazz in concert. 8. The many sides of Joe Harriott. 9. Gigging around. 10. Proving Kipling wrong: East meets West. 11. Whatever happened to Joe Harriott lately? 12. Free fall. 13. In pretty dire straits. 14. The legacy of Joe Harriott. 15. Notes. 16. Records. 17. Acknowledgements. 18. Index.

"Robertson’s research is meticulous and far-reaching and his panorama of comments... provides a valuable insight into a towering and tragic figure. Fire in his Soul is an important work: a detailed assessment of a seminal but long neglected artist."
Kevin Le Gendre, The Independent on Sunday

"Robertson tells Harriott’s story warts and all and has produced a wonderful read."
Stephen Graham, Jazzwise

"... a long overdue and welcome homage to a sadly neglected and original musician."
Derek Ansell, Jazz Journal International

"Robertson opens up Harriott as a musician and man and shows him as a proud, self-directed and lonely seer of jazz, a black musical prodigy in a white British underworld of the music where it was so much more easy and comfortable to be an imitator."
Chris Searle, The Morning Star

"This text... is fighting fresh, direct, necessary."
The Wire
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