I M Harry Beckett, 1935-2010

24 July 2010

The trumpeter Harry Beckett, who died a couple of days ago, was one of the great players who kept British jazz alive in the dog days of the 70s and 80s, when even the incomparable Stan Tracey considered throwing it all in to become a postman. He played with everyone – Jon Turney reminded me of his central contribution to Mike Westbrook’s big band suite Metropolis, an extract from which can be found online, and he was in  with Stan Tracey’s earlier Big Band and Ian Carr’s Nucleus, as well as playing with Chris McGregor, Dudu Pukwana, and the Brotherhood of Breath. He was always open to new ideas – he played with Weekend, for example, the influential band which brought together producer Simon Emmerson, jazzmen Larry Stabbins and Simon Booth, and Alison Statton of the Young Marble Giants, and is phenomenal on their track The View from Her Room. He was in the band which Annie Whitehead pulled together to perform a collection of Robert Wyatt’s songs, Soupsongs. His final dub-influenced record was produced by Adrian Sherwood and released on On-U. I have a soft spot for his Latin-influenced 1975 record Memories of Bacares, where his clean sound and seductive phrasing, together with Brian Miller’s electric piano and Daryl Runswick’s bass, brings to life a bright Mediterranean sea and a warm shore.

[Update: John Fordham wrote an obituary in The Guardian.]

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