Harry Beckett – Still Happy

Harry Beckett –Still HappyHarry Beckett

My Only Desire Records, MOD001

Released 13th May 2016

Available on limited edition vinyl + all digital platforms

The debut release on My Only Desire Records is this unreleased session from trumpeter Harry Beckett, originally recorded in 1974 for the BBC Radio 2 show Jazz Club.  It presents a wonderful snapshot of music from the era, as he mixes turbo-charged jazz with his Caribbean heritage and the rock and funk of the 70s.

His group includes the twin saxophone line-up of Alan Wakeman on tenor and soprano and Don Weller on tenor saxophone, Brian Miller on electric piano, Paul Hart on electric bass, John Webb on drums and Robin Jones on percussion.

All of the three songs presented on the session were composed by Harry, with two of them appearing on his classic 1975 LP ‘Joy Unlimited’ (Cadillac Records), albeit here in radically different forms, as the guitar of Ray Russell is replaced by the horns of Wakeman and Weller. “Bracelets of Sound” is transformed into an epic 14 minute masterpiece, complete with spine-tingling opening, beautifully composed themes and proto-hip hop drumming from John Webb, which will have producers around the world reaching for their MPC60s.

“No Time for Hello” with its instantly recognisable theme, is lent extra muscle by the horns. The double-quick bass playing, spaced out keys and bongo-heavy percussion make it an unlikely radio hit in the making.

The real find though, is the title track “Still Happy”, which has not appeared on any of Harry’s albums and until now has never been released in any format. It reflects Harry’s personality and joy of music making perfectly, which is apparent if you listen to any of Harry’s excellent albums from the mid-70s. The playing and interplay between the musicians is first-class, as it is throughout the session.

As Daniel Spicer explains in his fascinating sleeve notes: “Beckett’s solo, which comes hurtling out of the opening head, offers as good a summation of his musical personality as you’re likely to find: impossibly hip, irrepressibly swinging and bursting with joy.”

Harry had moved to the UK from Barbados in the 50s and played with a who’s-who of British jazz stars during the 60s and 70s – Graham Collier, John Surman, Mike Osbourne, Stan Tracey, Mike Westbrook, Chris McGregor etc. – as well as rock/pop stars such as Jack Bruce, Keef Hartley, Robert Wyatt and Manfred Mann. He recorded his debut album as a leader on Phillips, 1970’s ‘Flare Up’ and went on to record for labels such as Phillips, RCA and Ogun. Beckett worked in jazz for over five decades but also performed with pop/rock groups (Working Week, David Sylvian) and dub/reggae producers, such as Jah Wobble and Adrian Sherwood. Harry died on 22 July 2010 after suffering a stroke.

‘Still Happy’ celebrates Harry’s memory and should introduce him to many new fans.

Press Quotes: 

“(4 stars) Still Happy is just that – warm, crystalline soul grooves – spy-film funk horns, tight percussion and Beckett’s wild free squeal, all lit by bright electric bass and piano. Get Happy.” – MOJO, (Andrew Male), August 2016

“(4 stars) Stunning lost recording from a British jazz great…Beckett’s unique tone, and a host of brilliant, virtuoso performances from his backing band, imbue this album with its own distinct identity.” – Record Collector, (Paul Bowler), July 2016

“(4 stars) The rock-tinged jazz presented here, on highest fidelity vinyl, is consistently excellent, Beckett’s memorably lithe compositions matching his inimitable playing.” – Jazz Journal, (Roger Farbey), July 2016

“Still Happy is a treasure of major proportions, reminding us just what a highly creative musician he was…this is a stellar session.” – Jazzwise, (Stuart Nicholson), June 2016

“Harry’s presence is greatly missed, along with the unique voice of his trumpet. There can never be too much of his work available on record, particularly when it is of the quality of this release, which is warmly recommended.” – The Blue Moment, (Richard Williams), June 9, 2016

“The opening track “Bracelets of Sound” is a glorious celebration of sound, delicate yet engaging…Relentless in its driving energy, the title track has a bit of everything, with a gorgeous sax interlude, wonderful, crazy-beat drumming from Webb and soulful bass underpinning the lot. Add to the mix the trumpet of Beckett, with its first-class pitch and gorgeous curves to the phrasing and you have an almost perfect jazz track which reflects the era beautifully.” – Something Else!, (Sammy Stein), June 4, 2016

Beckett was a fantastic and creative musician…check out this rare memory of a wonderful trumpet player.” – Bebop Spoken Here, (Lance Liddle), June 5, 2016