by Ian Mann
February 21, 2023
An impressive and often beautiful recording that demonstrates just how much can be achieved within the duo format.
Jason Rebello & Tim Garland
“Life to Life”
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4799)
Jason Rebello – piano, Tim Garland – tenor, soprano & sopranino saxophones, bass clarinet
This recently released duo recording features the writing and playing of two of the UK’s most respected jazz musicians, pianist Jason Rebello and multi-reeds player Tim Garland.
Both are musicians with international reputations that extend beyond the immediate jazz sphere. Rebello has performed with Sting, Jeff Beck, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins and Manu Katche and Garland with Chick Corea, Bill Bruford, Duran Duran, Ralph Towner, John Dankworth and Joe Locke. This is in addition to other work in more conventional UK jazz circles, both as leaders of their own groups and as prolific collaborators and sidemen. Both have appeared on the Jazzmann web pages on multiple occasions, far too many to mention here, both on disc and in the live music environment.
“Life to Life” is a celebration of the duo’s thirty year musical relationship, a partnership that dates back to their days as fellow students at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Nevertheless it’s arguable that this current recording has its roots in the Covid lockdown when Garland hosted “Winter Encounters”, a series of online concerts in December 2020, filmed and recorded at his own Oak Gable Studio. These were intimate duo or trio performances with Garland variously joined by pianists Rebello and Kit Downes, vocalist Norma Winstone, pianist /vocalist Liane Carroll and cellist / vocalist Ayanna Witter-Johnson. The livestream featuring Downes and Winstone is reviewed here;
The Winter Encounters series was followed in May 2021 by an online duo performance from Oak Gable by Garland and Rebello as part of Cheltenham Jazz Festival’s Jazz Stream, which was essentially a complete ‘virtual’ jazz festival with multiple online performances from a variety of international locations transmitted over two consecutive days. The Rebello and Garland performance featured original material alongside compositions from the pen of the then recently deceased Chick Corea. My review of this livestream can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;
The music to be heard on “Life to Life” places the emphasis on original writing with Garland and Rebello contributing four pieces each. The remaining two items are interpretations of Corea’s “Children’s Song No. 6” and the traditional folk tune “Black Is The Colour (Of My True Love’s Hair)”.
The album commences with Garland’s “Two to Go”, the title reflective both of the duo format and of the life on the road of the touring musician. It features the sounds of dampened piano strings and tenor sax multiphonics alongside more conventional playing. Rebello’s piano vamp imparts the tune with considerable rhythmic impetus, this underpinning Garland’s joyous tenor sax soloing, which embraces elements of blues, soul and r’n’b. Rebello’s left hand remains busy during his own solo, a masterful combination of rhythm and melody.
Also by Garland the ballad “Soul Resonance” features the same piano / tenor sax combination but with the emphasis this time on a lush lyricism, the pair exchanging delicately intertwining melody lines. The performance is relaxed and unhurried with the focus very much on beauty. Nevertheless there is still an edge to the music, particularly in the yearning plaintiveness of Garland’s saxophone sound.
Garland says of these opening two compositions;
“With these two new pieces I wanted to minimise any compositional complexity and embody the essentials; the first with a solid but unhurried groove and the second through use of tone, line and spaciousness”.
Written just before the recording sessions Rebello’s first contribution with the pen is “The Missing Ingredient!”, a vivacious piece that sees the duo dancing lithely around each other as they exchange darting melodic phrases, with Garland featuring on soprano saxophone. Rebello also supplies an impressive rhythmic impetus and delivers a mercurial piano solo. It’s one of the liveliest pieces on the album and resolves itself with a playful flourish. Garland says of the tune title;
“We were after one particular type of number that we felt was not yet on the album. It turned out to be one Jason wrote just before the session, there’s a spontaneous energy in it. After we heard it back we thought, yeah, that’s the album complete now.”
“One Morning” sees Garland dipping into his back catalogue. This ballad was first recorded by the Lighthouse Trio, featuring Garland, pianist Gwilym Simcock and drummer / percussionist Asaf Sirkis on an ACT Records release in 2012. Album review here;
Originally written as a homage in memory of “those we have loved” it remains a beautiful tune and exhibits the same kind of dreamy lyricism as the more recent composition “Soul Resonance”. This new version of “One Morning” features a particularly absorbing passage of improvised solo piano from the excellent Rebello.
The pianist picks up the compositional reins again on “No Hope No Tears”, which features Garland on bass clarinet. It’s a complex piece that contains some remarkable playing from both musicians, with Garland exploring the full sonic capabilities of the bass clarinet. He had previously challenged Rebello to “write me something ‘fiendish’ for the bass clarinet, which is an instrument that’s a bit more difficult to play than the saxophone, and he did just that - really kicked my arse!”.
It represents something of a technical ‘tour de force’ for both players and it makes for thrilling, but totally absorbing listening.
Also by Rebello “Fire Of Benevolence” is a gentler, but no less rewarding, composition with Garland this time featured on soprano saxophone. Less angular than its predecessor this piece places a greater focus on melody and lyricism, while still allowing scope for improvisation and self expression.
Chick Corea’s “Children’s Song No. 6” first appeared on the 1979 album “Duet”, recorded with vibraphonist Gary Burton and released on ECM Records. Garland chose it as a homage to his former employer, who died in February 2021. It’s a beautiful tune with an appropriately child like and playful feel about it and features Garland on the rarely heard sopranino saxophone.
“As Free As The River” represents Rebello’s final contribution with the pen and wanders majestically, with the composer’s flowingly lyrical piano augmented by the warmly rounded tones of Garland’s tenor sax.
“Samaii For Peace” represents another foray into Garland’s back catalogue and is a complex but animated piece featuring staccato piano rhythms and darting, puckish soprano sax melody lines. The duo later swap roles as Rebello cuts loose with a highly percussive piano solo, underpinned by Garland’s recurring sax motif.
The album concludes with an arrangement of the traditional Scottish / Appalachian folk tune “Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair)”. Garland has always enjoyed an affinity with various folk musics from around the globe and was once part of the jazz / folk crossover band Lammas. “There’s an elemental beauty about some of these folk melodies”, he explains, “they’re irreducible, a form of human expression that feels timeless. It’s powerful to tap into something so raw”.
The duo’s arrangement features Garland on bass clarinet, an instrument that helps to bring a mysterious, crepuscular feeling to the piece, its grainy tones indeed hinting at something ancient and “elemental”. As throughout the album Rebello is totally on his wavelength and there’s a genuine, timeless beauty about the duo’s performance.
“Life to Life” is an impressive and often beautiful recording that demonstrates just how much can be achieved within the duo format. The music is intricate and spacious in turns with the two musicians complementing each other perfectly, they always know just how much or how little to play at any given time, embracing both complexity and simplicity as the music demands. Honed over many years the rapport between the two musicians is palpable and their playing strikes a good balance between composition and improvisation, the pair subtly pushing the envelope whilst ensuring that their music remains eminently accessible. Garland’s use of a variety of reed instruments helps to broaden the duo’s sound and the way in which the lead changes hands almost imperceptibly is also genuinely impressive. An excellent example of the ‘art of the duo’.
Forthcoming concert dates;
23 February – Dora Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff
4 March – Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts.
blog comments powered by Disqus