6 May 2003 **** Front Page

Coleridge Goode — A Life in Jazz

By Tapani Lausti

Coleridge Goode & Roger Cotterrell, Bass Lines : A Life in Jazz. Northway Publications 2002.

One of the lesser known jazz institutions in London used to be the Sunday afternoon jam sessions with pianist Iggy Quail's trio and guest soloists, with Coleridge Goode on bass and Laurie Morgan on drums. I came across the scene first in the 80s in the Sir George Robey pub in Finsbury Park and after that in the Kings Head in Crouch End.

Those Sunday afternoons were memorable. This is the way Goode describes them in his autobiography: "It wasn't a totally serious musical event and the main thing was that everyone enjoyed themselves with music at the centre of it all. Nothing was planned and it was just a lot of fun."

That about sums it up. We were like a big family getting together more or less regularly. Coleridge Goode's tall, genial figure behind the bass and his amusing announcements kept the atmosphere relaxed and friendly. Every now and then a new instrumentalist or singer would appear on the scene adding spice to an already exciting scene. Towards the end of the session people would often be dancing in the small space of the Kings Head basement.

Sadly, Iggy Quail died in August 2000. The party at Kings Head after his funeral, however, was an event in true jazz tradition. The music was inspired and the party made me imagine I was somewhere in the Carribbean where both Iggy and Coleridge were born (Quail was from Guyana, Goode is from Jamaica).

When I first encountered the scene I was surprised to hear Goode's way of humming in unison with his bowed bass solos. This was familiar to me from one of my first jazz records on which Slam Stewart played and hummed in a similar manner. This was on Red Norvo's classical 1945 recording with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Goode acknowledges his debt to Stewart but says that he does it in a different way.

Coleridge Goode's life in jazz has been a remarkable one. His career has touched many aspects of British jazz, from George Shearing's soft playing to Joe Harriott's fierce free jazz experiments. Goode's thorough musical education made him the first choice for many prominent band leaders. He also played with Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt and Ray Nance, to mention a few big names. The list of London jazz clubs where Goode has played over the years is fascinating. None of the mentioned clubs exist anymore except Ronnie Scott's, although in the book we encounter its early version in Gerrard Street, not the current one in Frith Street.

Goode's autobiography throws more light on the legendary Joe Harriott Quintet, of which Goode was a crucial member. Like Goode, Harriott came to Britain from Jamaica. Having first played in a more conventional hard bop idiom, Harriott started to explore different ways of improvising. His band became a pioneer in what then came to be known as free jazz.

Goode thinks that the quintet's music was more interesting than that of Ornette Coleman who was making a name for himself as a controversial experimentor around the same time in the US. Coleman's band, however, was not able to integrate the piano into its music whereas Harriott's quintet was "making a group music where harmony was spontaneously produced with the piano as an integral part".

That this was possible was greatly helped by the exceptional qualities of the band's pianist, the late Pat Smythe. Goode describes Smythe's contribution thus: "With Harriott he found ways of accompanying that never hampered the freedom of the front line players but could add an amazing range of textures and colours in sound."

Goode describes Harriott's disillusionment as the quintet's music was disparaged by many musicians. Goode finds it difficult to understand this attitude: "When I listen now to the records we made, I find it hard to understand why there was quite so much controversy. Time changes things. It's a matter of getting your ears used to different combinations of sounds."


Visit the archive: Music

See also:

Michael Garrick, Troppo by Dave Gelly

The Observer, 25 July 2004

Joe Harriott, Swings High by John Fordham

The Guardian, 23 July 2004

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