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Christian Garrick Quartet

Live: Lion Ballroom, Arts Centre, Leominster

by Ian Mann

February 27, 2006


Garrick's violin had been at the heart of things throughout but the whole group were technically brilliant.

Virtuoso jazz violinist Christian Garrick and his quartet performed an excellent and well balanced programme of varied music at this Arts Alive event held at Leominster’s exquisite Lion Ballroom.

The violin is an instrument rarely used in jazz and the late, great Stephane Grapelli remains the benchmark by which all other players will be judged.

However, there are so many groups playing Grapelli’s ‘Hot Club De France’ style that it has become something of a cliche. Garrick declined to take that easy option and instead offered something far more modern and adventurous, featuring many original compositions. Given his musical lineage (he is the son of the British jazz institution; the pianist, composer and educator Michael Garrick) one would expect nothing less.

The quartet kicked off with ‘CK1’ dedicated to Charles Kennedy but owing something in compositional style to Keith Jarrett. This excellent opener served to highlight the quality of the band Garrick had assembled.

Rising piano star Andrew McCormack proved an excellent accompanist and also supplied several ripping solos himself over the course of the evening. He was complimented in the rhythm section by the agile bass of Andy Crowdy who also contributed a number of melodic solos and by the economical drumming of Tom Hooper who was always supportive but never flashy.

Other highlights of the first set included a medley of Gershwin tunes executed with a breezy charm and a faithful rendition of the standard ‘It had to be you’. Jobim’s ‘How Insensitive’ by contrast introduced Garrick’s solid bodied electric violin and was heavily but interestingly mutated in the process.

Garrick’s original Latin tinged ‘Braziliance’ brought about a rollicking conclusion to the first set.

The gig was well attended and the attentive audience well pleased by what they saw and heard.

In the second half Garrick pushed the envelope a little further leaving the standards behind and concentrating in the main on originals.

McCormack switched to electric piano for ‘Tigger’ which introduced a rock element to the proceedings. This was carried further by Garrick’s extraordinary solo improvisation on electric violin. Utilising an arsenal of foot pedals he treated and distorted his sound producing some incredible effects including a guitar like sound verging on heavy metal. All this was done with a humour and panache that won over the doubters.

A romp through the tricky roller coaster riffs of Chick Corea’s ‘Spain’ brought forth more great piano playing from the talented McCormack, and was a barnstorming closer to the second set.

The encore, Garrick’s own ‘Gentle’ calmed things down again and everybody went home happy.

Garrick’s violin had been at the heart of things throughout but the whole group were technically brilliant. I don’t think I’ve seen such accomplished musicianship under the ‘jazz’ banner in Leominster before.

Arts Alive are to be congratulated on a truly memorable evening and hopefully this will encourage more professional musicians on the London jazz scene to visit rural locations.

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