Garland is one of Britain’s most respected and versatile jazz musicians with saxophones and bass clarinet his main weapons of choice.
To describe Garland as simply a jazz musician, however, falls a long way short as there really is no pigeon-holing him. Firstly there is his classical composition background which has led to his, not just appreciating, but improvising on the music of Ravel, Barber, Handel and Messiaen. Couple this with an ever curious mind and you find that he is, in the best sense, a musical magpie. Such is his penchant for merging Celtic roots, Latin grooves, 70s fusion, North African percussion, Flamenco and pastoral-themed classical that he might well be described as a musical polyglot.
His development as a musician and composer has been strongly coloured by the likes of Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Eberhard Weber and saxophonist Joe Lovano. You will also find Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman and John Coletrane in his record collection.
From making his initial mark in the 1980s with folk-jazz amalgam Lammas, Garland has gone on to work with, among others, Ronnie Scott, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Towner, former Yes drummer Bill Bruford, and legendary jazz pianist/composer Chick Corea. He is still a member of Chick Corea’s Vigil.
Over the years he has formed small ground-breaking ensembles including Storms/Nocturnes (with vibraphonist Joe Locke and pianist Geoffrey Keezer), Acoustic Triangle (with pianist Gwilym Simcock and double bass player Malcolm Creese) and the Lighthouse Project (with Simcock and percussionist Asaf Sirkis). Where does this guy find the time!
The “ONE” in the title of this cd is the oneness at the essence of our being: one World, one life, one beat. Garland talks of using one’s own limitations to find one’s true voice.
To this end he quotes the Spanish poet Machado: “All our efforts must tend towards light”. Garland perceives sound in the same way a landscape artist sees light.
This album brings Garland together with long time associates and collaborators Jason Rebello (piano, keys) and the aforementioned Asaf Sirkis. Also present is guitarist (and physics graduate) Ant Law whose 12-string and 8-string guitars add an exotic touch to the music. Guest percussionist Hossam Ramzy brings a mellow Mesopotamian groove to the mix with doholla, Egyptian tabla and karkabou.
ONE is, unapologetically, a studio album. Yet despite the addition of “keyboard colours … layered udu (large clay pot), darbouka (goblet drum)” and, by his own admission, multiple layers of saxophones (soprano and tenor) all of the energy and feeling of the original is retained.
The album opens with the groove-drenched and Middle Eastern-inspired ‘Sama’i For Peace’. With an insistent piano intro from Rebello driven by Sirkis’s drumming, Garland’s alto swoops in from a height to give the album lift-off. In the first minute they present a microcosm of what this album is about: marrying elements of American swing with English lyricism, ornamented with the many influences picked up along the way, to achieve a cohesive fusion.
‘Bright New Year’ is a mellifluous taking flight with the soft-spoken sax carried along on a magic carpet of sympathetic piano and Ant Law’s resonant guitar.
Law’s guitar also colours ‘The Eternal Greeting’ giving it a sun-baked Moorish feel. As greetings go this one is heartfelt, unhurried, relaxed and universal.
The same relaxed vibe continues with the super-smooth ‘Colours Of Night’. We are in Pat Metheny territory: the keys carry the recurring theme, accompanied by shimmering electric guitar, understated sax, unobtrusive percussion, the Fender Rhodes fat bass-end making up for the absence of bass guitar.
The pastoral feel is well and truly dispelled with the harder-driven prog-rockish ‘Prototype’. Garland gets to let loose on his alto, Law following with scintillating guitar. As with ‘Colours’ Rebello and Ramzy ensure there is plenty in the low-end department.
‘The Gathering Dark’ is, for me, the stand-out track displaying, as it does, Garland’s skills as a colourist to great effect. He is a master at mood creation.
The album’s polyglot feel is evident on ‘Foretold’, the penultimate track, with an organic deep rumble, augmented by Asaf Sirkis’s groove-driven karkabou and doholla.
The only song included, ‘Pity The Poor Arms Dealer’, features Dionne Bennett on vocals. Invariably one prefers musicians to steer of social commentary and let their music do the talking. However, this one works as, musically, it is very much part of the kaleidoscopic river of sound running through the album. Bennett’s restrained and soulful delivery makes this as much ballad/lament as protest song.
The album ends on a sugar-rush high with ‘Youkay’. A steel drum hammers out a short opening leitmotif. Then it’s a case of all hands on deck as keys, sax and drums take us on one last whirlwind fairground ride.
If you want to explore Tim Garland’s extensive back catalogue start with his highly acclaimed 5-star double-album ‘Songs to the North Sky’ (Edition, 2014). It features “a small jazz ensemble on one disc and an ambitious classical/jazz hybrid on the other”. You get two very different sides to Garland, the first built on the successful Lighthouse project the latter a semi orchestral piece featuring the Royal Northern Sinfonia Strings.
Last October’s ‘Return to the Fire’ also merits a listen. Effortlessly melodious and lyrical throughout it celebrates some of those musicians who have inspired him such as McCoy Tyner, JJ Johnson and Wayne Shorter.
Final words? ONE nation in a groove!
One by Tim Garland is available now from www.editionrecords.com.