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‘Joe Harriott, Harry Beckett, Shake Keane and the Caribbean Jazz Influence’: Symposium and Concert at Guildhall School

The Guildhall School held a seminar and concert on Tuesday 29 June shining a light on the important influence of British musicians with a Caribbean heritage: Joe Harriott, Shake Keane and Harry Beckett. Sebastian attended the seminar (which happened to coincide with the goalless first 75 minutes of the England-Germany game in the European Championships).

There was an evening concert by Guildhall Big Band directed by Scott Stroman with guests Gary Crosby, Steve Williamson , and Gabriel Garrick.

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The seminar and the concert are BOTH available to watch online until FRIDAY 9 JULY 2021. links/ embeds below.

Symposium video :

Concert Video

There was an admirably clear focus in the symposium, moderated sensitively by Professor Catherine Tackley, which was looking at the decisive influence of music from Caribbean on the British scene.

There was impressive joined-up thinking as this whole legacy was explored in both events, and pointers were given to both books and albums that illuminate it and bring it to life.

The first section of the Symposium was about how each of the panel members had found their individual way into appreciating this music. Gary Crosby, for example, said “I would not have appreciated jazz if it hadn’t been for Joe Harriott, Shake Keane and Coleridge Goode.” For Steve Williamson, it had been his work instinct, his desire to put in the work to understand the and “develop a method” as player. “You have to put in the work, he said”. Having started in reggae, he noted that “the spirituality of the music led me into jazz. Kevin Le Gendre described the ways he had found to get into the music as both as a listener and as a dancer. And Gabriel Garrick developed the theme of the extent to which his father had not just been drawn to the music, but had been passionately enlivened by the presence of musicians from the Caribbean, their “unfettered approach to music and thinking[….] There’s this burst of energy coming through these souls.”

[ Confession: I have so far only been able to dip briefly into the recording of the concert.] The music was interspersed with readings of Shake Keane poems from members of Guildhall’s African-Caribbean Society, and also an impassioned partly-sung reading of “Angel Horn” by Gabriel Garrick. The most vociferous applause I have so far been able to find came for impressive tenor saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi 

There was also a nice exchange before the concert built to its climax. Scott Stroman asked Gary Crosby what was the advice he would give to young jazz musicians. The answer was, essentially one word.

“Ellington. Somewhere in there you will find your answer.”

So the concert built to its fitting climax with Stan Tracey’s arrangement of Ellington’s Lay-By, a Blues in F bringing just the right feeling of communal joy and purposefulness to round off the night.

LINKS: Landing Page for Seminar and Concert

Concert/ Seminar printed programme

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