THE HARRY SOUTH BIG BAND WITH GEORGIE FAME AND THE DICK MORRISSEY QUARTET
When the BBC invited pianist/composer and arranger Harry South to front his own big band for a special edition of its flagship radio programme Jazz Club in 1960, few could have predicted the broadcast’s fall-out. Although the Beeb would offer a similar helping hand to other British jazzmen in the decade ahead – making big band leaders of a range of leading figures from Humphrey Lyttelton to Stan Tracey – none of these other bands evolved quite like South’s. Beginning as a showcase for his distinctive, often darkly dramatic, original material, and operating as a ‘jobs for the boys’ forum for those British modernists he felt closest too (among them Tubby Hayes, Dick Morrissey and Joe Harriott) the sheer clout of South’s star-packed aggregation ensured it soon attracted interest from outside the normally closed borders of jazz purism. Indeed, when Yeh Yeh hitmaker Georgie Fame decided to pursue his wider musical ambitions, he chose South and his big band as his collaborators, creating the album Sound Venture, a cross-over classic that has become one of the iconic LPs of the decade.
Assembled from South’s own tape archive, and featuring a wealth of PREVIOUSLY UNISSUED material, including NINE killer Georgie Fame tracks, Further South is both a prequel and sequel to that landmark achievement, a four-disc document of one of the most vibrant times in British music, a souvenir from the days when Swinging London created its very own sound from a heady amalgam of small band Hard Bop, Big Band Swing, R&B and Soul. Containing no fewer than ten complete radio sessions by South’s big band (and two by the Dick Morrissey Quartet) and packaged with rare period photographs and an extensive booklet essay by award-winning saxophonist and author Simon Spillett, this set is a must-have for all fans of British modernism.
These Harry South Big Band broadcast recordings contain modern big band jazz of quite extraordinary power and dynamism – rarely, if ever, equalled since. The Band – led by conductor/arranger/composer South- has just about every modern jazz star of the 1960’s including such luminaries as Tubby Hayes,Ronnie Scott and Dick Morrissey in the sax sections on offer. The Band rips it up on just about every track and culminates – in CD 4 – with Georgie Fame at the microphone with the band in full swing behind him. All in all, a truly remarkable catalogue of music making. But, a word of warning, these recordings are of BBC broadcasts of “Jazz Club” and (I believe) are taken from tapes made of the various transmissions by Harry South himself and are definitely not “Hi-Fi” or anything approaching it – but they are nevertheless priceless in their rarity and musical excellence. In addition to the Big Band broadcasts there are some wonderful sessions recorded by the Dick Morrissey Quartet with no less than Harry South himself on piano and the titanic drumming of Phil Seaman on offer. All in all a fitting tribute to a marvellous set of musicians playing at the peak of their powers in the 1960’s – with the caveat for the audiophiles alongst us as to the far less then perfect sound reproduction! Jonny Dee