by Ian Mann
September 16, 2019
Tonight’s performance may have been ‘chamber jazz’, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in terms of dynamism and excitement and delivered some virtuoso playing allied to Garland's evocative writing.
Tim Garland’ s ‘Weather Walker’ Trio, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/09/2019
Tim Garland - tenor & soprano saxophones, Jason Rebello – piano, Yuri Goloubev – double bass
Tonight’s event represented a welcome return to The Hive from saxophonist and composer Tim Garland.
Garland had previously visited the venue in January 2017, playing to a full house with his ‘Electric Quartet’ featuring Rebello, guitarist Ant Law and drummer / percussionist Asaf Sirkis. A highly charged group performance saw the quartet getting that year’s jazz programme at The Hive off to a terrific start. Review here;
This evening’s performance was to be very different with Garland now leading an essentially acoustic chamber jazz trio featuring the talents of Rebello on grand piano and the Russian born virtuoso Yuri Goloubev on double bass.
In 2017 the electric quartet focussed on material from Garland’s then current album “One” (Edition Records) but tonight the emphasis was on the more recent “Weather Walker” (2018, also Edition), a recording with tonight’s trio at its core but one which also features contributions from the German pianist Pablo Held and from a thirty five piece orchestra. The album was recorded at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios.
Garland is one of the UK’s best known and best loved jazz musicians, although ultimately musical genres mean little to him. This is a musician whose work has consistently blurred the boundaries between jazz, folk, classical and even rock music. In addition to his own work as a leader Garland has also enjoyed high profile engagements with the similarly broad minded Chick Corea, and with the band Earthworks, led by former Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford.
Garland’s reputation, allied to the brilliance of that 2017 performance, helped to ensure that there was another near capacity crowd at The Hive once more. Rebello and Goloubev are also great favourites with Shrewsbury audiences, the bassist having visited The Hive on a number of previous occasions as part of bands led by guitarist Maciek Pysz and pianist Alex Hutton.
Tonight was essentially an acoustic ‘chamber jazz’ performance with a Yamaha baby grand specially hired for the use of Rebello and with only minimal amplification provided for Goloubev’s bass. Garland played into a microphone, which helped to provide a dash of atmospheric echo when required.
Garland is no stranger to working in the trio format having previously been part of the jazz / classical ensemble Acoustic Triangle alongside founder Malcolm Creese (double bass) and Gwilym Simcock (piano, french horn). Garland was later a member of the fondly remembered Lighthouse Trio alongside Simcock and drummer /percussionist Asaf Sirkis, a group that enjoyed international exposure after signing for the German ACT record label.
The instrumentation of the ‘Weather Walker’ trio recalls that of Acoustic Triangle, but overall their approach is more robust, more in keeping with that of the Lighthouse Trio. Tonight’s performance may have been ‘chamber jazz’, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in terms of dynamism and excitement.
That said the trio eased their audience in relatively gently with the standard “How Deep Is The Ocean” which was introduced by Goloubev at the bass and which featured Garland on effortlessly fluent tenor sax. Meanwhile the quality of the sound and of Rebello’s playing, and particularly his soloing, more than justified the trouble and expense of hiring that grand piano. The always impressive Goloubev also endeared himself to the audience with a typically dazzling solo on double bass.
Material from the “One” album still found its way into tonight’s repertoire, beginning with “Bright New Year”, which saw Garland moving to soprano sax. Written, as the title suggests, at the turn of the year this piece combined folk like melodies and classical allusions with jazz soloing. Garland’s sound was occasionally oboe like and at other times reminiscent of Jan Garbarek. His opening theme statement was developed into a full on solo and this was followed by an intriguing dialogue between Rebello and Goloubev, their interplay leading to individual solos from both.
The title track of “Weather Walker” was inspired by Garland’s love of the Great British outdoors, and particularly the landscape of the Lake District. The vagaries of British geography and climate were celebrated in a piece that mixed pastoral beauty with moments of sonic dissonance intended to simulate the sometimes inclement Cumbrian weather. Garland’s soprano ranged from soft, light and feathery to piercingly incisive, qualities mirrored by Rebello at the piano and Goloubev at the bass, both of whom also featured as soloists.
Garland has a long standing love of English folk music, something that first found expression in the late 1990s with the folk/jazz crossover group Lammas. It is still an important component in his work and helped to inspire the composition “The Snows” from the “Weather Walker” album, the piece borrowing its title from a poem and taking inspiration from folk melodies. Here Garland moved back to tenor, a dash of echo helping to emphasise the vastness of the winter landscape of the Lake District. Rebello’s piano solo was both expansive and flowingly lyrical, while Goloubev’s solo featured him at his most melodic. The directness of the melodies helped to ensure that this number was particularly well received by the appreciative Shrewsbury audience.
The first set concluded with a return to the “One” album and “Sama’i For Peace”, a composition taking its title from the name of an Indian rhythm that Garland learned from percussionist Asaf Sirkis. This rhythm, in ten, was speeded up by Garland who probed deeply on soprano above the busy rhythms generated by Rebello and Goloubev, the pianist also making effective use of the interior of his instrument. Rebello’s own solo featured highly effective use of dynamics, his thunderous low end clusters a particularly notable aspect of a truly virtuoso performance.
The second set also began with a standard, in this instance “If I Should Lose You”, played in the key of G minor and with fluent solos coming from Garland on tenor, Goloubev on bass and Rebello at the piano.
Garland proved to be an excellent between tunes interlocutor, warm, witty and informative, giving just the right amount of background behind each piece, but never allowing himself to ramble too much. “Traveller” was his dedication to his former employer, the great Chick Corea, now an astonishingly youthful seventy eight year old. The title references Corea’s travels as a musician, criss crossing the world to perform concerts as well as exploring a wide variety of global music styles. Simultaneously complex, playful and highly rhythmic Garland’s piece incorporated many of the South American elements that have informed Corea’s own music. The playing from Garland on soprano, Rebello at the piano and Goloubev on double bass sparkled with vitality and was truly virtuosic.
Acoustic Triangle performances were often held in sacred spaces and one of the hallmarks of their shows was when Garland used to place the bell of his saxophone into the lid of the piano to utilise the resonant qualities of the strings, the resultant echo enhanced yet further by the ecclesiastical setting. An audience member had clearly remembered this and at half time requested Garland to repeat the trick in the second set. It all worked remarkably well, Garland inserting the bell of his tenor into the bowels of the Yamaha and blowing pretty hard before pausing to asses his own echo as he generated a series of ringing overtones. More justification for bringing in the baby grand, it would never have worked with an electric keyboard!
This set piece formed the introduction to the trio’s arrangement of the Kenny Wheeler composition “Everybody’s Song But My Own”, a piece that has become something of a modern day standard. Solos here came from Rebello on piano, Garland on tenor and Goloubev at the bass, prior to a further statement of the memorable theme from Garland.
Garland dipped deeply into his back catalogue for “Rosa Ballerina”, a tune written for his then infant daughter, now a young woman in her early twenties. Of course the composition itself has hardly dated, its themes if anything now more relevant than ever. The simple, lullaby like beauty of the main theme was punctured by stabs of wilful dissonance; this may be a song written about the innocence of a child but it’s also a warning about the world that they will be growing up into. That said the mood of the piece was essentially joyous and melodic, with the composer featuring on soprano and with Goloubev delivering some of his most eloquent soloing of the set.
The ever magnanimous Garland handed over to Rebello for the final tune of the evening. His composition “Pearl” was the opening track of his 2016 solo piano album “Held” (Edition Records), a fiendishly difficult piece that convinced some reviewers that Rebello had overdubbed a second piano part, which was emphatically not the case. This trio arrangement sacrificed nothing of these complexities with Rebello himself giving a virtuoso performance that included more judicious work ‘under the lid’. Meanwhile Garland’s darted and danced with a remarkable agility and Goloubev responded with his customary brilliance.
Rebello’s bravura performance of his own piece had threatened to steal the show but Garland re-asserted his authority on the inevitable encore, with the saxophonist calling a final standard, Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood”. This proved to be a show case for Garland’s skills as a ballad player with his warm, fluent, sometimes breathy tenor playing. His opening solo was followed by a series of absorbing bass and piano exchanges before Garland rounded things off with a stunning solo sax cadenza.
The reaction from the knowledgeable Shrewsbury audience was little short of ecstatic and the organisers, Shrewsbury Jazz Network, pronounced the gig a great success.
For me it fell just short of the quartet performance from a couple of years ago, mainly because I must admit that there were times I did miss the presence of a drum kit. My only other quibble would be that we didn’t get to hear anything of Goloubev with the bow, the man is an absolute master of arco bass and it would have been good to have heard at least one example of this side of his talent.
However all this amounts to little more than nit picking. This was still an intimate but spirited performance from three of the finest jazz musicians currently based in the UK. A triumph for the band and the promoters alike, with the audience going home happily on a clear, warm Shropshire night.
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