'It’s a phenomenal overview of music – from Berio and Birtwistle to Elvis Costello and Goldfrapp plus countless more – heard through the free imagination of this virtuosic saxophone player.' The Observer (Fiona Maddocks)
Composer/saxophonist John Harle has launched a 20-album retrospective from across his 40-year career in aid of the Help Musicians COVID-19 charity.
The John Harle Collection has been a major lockdown project and takes in recordings from 1977-2016, featuring John performing across multiple musical disciplines - as both player and composer - in classical, jazz and pop with an array of collaborators. The collection has been tirelessly curated by John himself. It is deeply personal and has become what he refers to as something of a "sonic autobiography".
John Harle needs no introduction. With such a jaw-droppingly prolific biography it's almost easier to say what he hasn't done, than what he has. He's released so many albums that he's lost count (well over 80) and has written music covering a gamut of genres including opera, modern jazz, saxophone concertos, film scores, classical music and even lounge. He's been musical director and producer for a raft of big names including Elvis Costello, Marc Almond, Herbie Hancock and Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and was artistic advisor and producer to Sir Paul McCartney for six years. He's also responsible for the theme to BBC1's Silent Witness, which is still being used after 20 years.
Since the beginning of his career, John has collected recordings of all his live and studio performances. So, sifting through hundreds of recordings on multitrack analogue tape, 1/4-inch analogue - even cassette - alongside digital formats such as DAT, DA8 and old WAVs, to compile a 20 CD collection proved a monumental challenge, but one that he's risen to with gusto. Most, but not all, of the material is unreleased; some new, some vintage, some studio, some live - a sort of 'alternative discography'. As John explains, "Abandoned strands of music are actually the most autobiographical for most musicians - pieces or demos left unfinished that leave traces of ideas and themes that occupy us for a lifetime, and reappear in successful work when the time is right. "
Highlights include:
  • Jazz classics for saxophone, piano and orchestra, performed with Sir Richard Rodney Bennett and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra;
  • Concertos and symphonic movements by Villa-Lobos, Ibert, Hermann, Coates, Rodrigo and Harle himself;
  • World premiere performances of solo works by Berio, Bedford and the British premiere of Edison Denisov's Sonata;
  • Saxophone quartets by Piazzolla, Alvarez, Weill, Bozza, Francaix, Muldowney, Jacob, Patterson, Dubois and Bedford;
  • Medieval, Renaissance and Contemporary repertoire from the time that he worked with Sir Harrison Birtwistle at the National Theatre;
  • Harle's own compositions (1985-2013), including live performance of Leviathan with Vasily Petrenko and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra;
  • John Harle and the Berliner Band in music by Weill, Eisler and Brandt;
  • Performances with Marc Almond and previously unreleased tracks by Elvis Costello;
  • Contemporary jazz live from Bloomsbury Theatre and Queen Elizabeth Hall;
  • Songs and electronic music including new remix of the Silent Witness theme by Danny Harle;
  • Silent Witness and other music for film by Harle, Satie, Lai, Mandel, Nyman and Herman;
  • Traditional and contemporary songs (2004-2017);
  • The Ballad of Jamie Allan - folk opera by John Harle and Tom Pickard
  • Lounge and contemporary tracks (1984-2018) performed by Harle with the Dreamland Orchestra & Opera House;
  • The Golden Demon - an audiobook, with music by John Harle, about the life of Adolphe Sax
John Harle and Sospiro Records will donate all the proceeds they receive from the sale of The John Harle Collection (digital albums/singles and the CD box set) to the Help Musicians Coronavirus Financial Hardship Fund Phase 2.
The John Harle Collection - released 23 October 2020.