Joseph Arthurlin Harriott, known as Joe, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 15th July 1928. He attended the Alpha Boys School in Kingston, known for producing musicians. Harriott became an alto saxophonist, composer and jazz musician.
He came to the UK in 1951 as part of Ossie Da Costa's big band, and brought out EPs and albums between 1954 and 1969. He worked with most of the well-known jazz musicians in the UK, and was compared to Charlie Parker. He is particularly known for developing fusion jazz, including incorporating Indian classical music into jazz. He is also known as one of the pioneers of free jazz. He was a theorist of music, writing that he was "attempting to paint sounds, colours and effects".
He lived in St John's Wood in London, but played at the Concorde Club in Southampton. In the early 1970s he found it hard to get work and was in poverty. He was in Southampton in 1972 when he was admitted to hospital with cancer, and died in January 1973. He is buried in the churchyard of Holy Saviour, Bitterne. The epitaph on his gravestone is his own words: "Parker? There's them over here can play a few aces too". He had said this to remind people that there were great jazz musicians in the UK as well as in the USA.
In October 2012 as part of Black History Month a plaque was put up at the Red Lion pub, Bitterne, in memory of Harriott.
- Joe Harriott playing "In a Sentimental Mood"
- Portrait by Walter Hanlon at the National Portrait Gallery
- "Too good to be forgotten": article by Kevin Le Gendre
- Wikipedia article on Harriott
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