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Harry Pitch died on 15 July, 2015, aged 90yrs.
Harry started out as a trumpet player and he led a successful Basie style band in the fifties. He appreciated the playing style of Ruby Braff and he modelled his small group approach on the gerry Mulligan Quartet. Harry had learned harmonica in his youth but turned to trumpet during WW2 when harmonicas became scarce. His wife Ruby bought him a new chromatic after they heard Max Geldrey playing jazz on the Goon Show and he gradually introduced it into his big band repertoire. The roles reversed and most people now only know him as a chromatic harmonica player.
Harry was one of the handful of players who have turned harmonica playing into an art form. A player of enormous fluency and invention, his career has spanned six decades and innumerable gigs and sessions. He was one of Larry Adler´s favourite players.
He quickly established himself as one of the UK's leading studio players, performing on many records as well as on countless films and TV dates. His first studio work was with Ray Goodwin, on The Bridge on the River Kwai March, before doing a string of records with Frank Ifield, I remember you, Cliff Richards, Val Doonican, .... . In 1970 Harry played harmonica on the suprise hit Groovin´ with Mr Bloe, which has just become a club hit again. As well as all this he has, unusally, moved into the classical arena, playing at both the Royal Opera House and Sadler's Wells. Harry also played the uncredited mouth-organ solo on Procol Harum's Your Own Choice from the Home album.
Harry was probably best known for playing Ronnie Hazlehurst's harmonica music for the first 25 years of Last of the Summer Wine.
His first love had, however, always been jazz and his enormous experience in small groups with many of London's best piano players like the late Bill LeSage, with accordianist Jack Emblow in Rhythm and Reeds, with the Thames Valley Jazzmen and as a big band leader, makes his jazz gigs an absolute joy. An icon of the British Jazz scene.
Harry also played for many years in the BBO - Bucks, Berks and Oxon Big Band.
He was a regular performer at the annual NHL Festivals over many decades.
The BBC have recorded a special 50th anniversary Goon Show which was broadcast on Radio 2 on 29 May, 2001. If you missed it, check to see if there is a repeat as it was very funny on the night it was recorded.
None of the original cast was present, although two sons took their fathers' parts. The harmonica spot, which was played by Max Geldray in the original shows, was taken on this occasion by Harry Pitch.
Harry has released 3 CDs with piano accompaniment, Bossa meets Ballads, which includes 15 well known standards played in his simple inimitable style.
He has also released a CD which contains 20 recordings from earlier LPs called Harmonically Yours which contains famous film themes like Midnight Cowboy, ballads like September Song, and his Top Ten Hit Groovin' with Mister Bloe.
The third CD is Harry Pitch with Strings, which contains Last of the Summer Wine, Bluesette, Emily, Fidler on the Roof...To purchase the CDs (£11 each plus P&P), contact HARU Music, phone/fax 01628-622895, Hunters Moon, Islet Rd, Maidenhead, Berks, SL6 8HT, UK. email@example.com
You can watch Harry playing Alfie and Secret Love with Jack Emblow and Rhythm and Reeds with Bobby Orr, Peter Morgan and Don Innes.
Harry was recording in the EMI studios in the 1960s when he mixed with and helped the new kids on the block like the Beatles. You can hear Harry talking about his experiences.
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