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Tom Ollendorff Trio with Tim Garland

Tom Ollendorff Trio with Tim Garland, Shrewsbury Jazz Network, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 11/05/2024.

Photography: Photograph by Hamish Kirkpatrick of Shrewsbury Jazz Network

by Ian Mann

May 14, 2024


A gig that I always thought was going to be good, but thanks to the vivacity of the performances it ultimately ended up exceeding my expectations. Well done to all involved.

Tom Ollendorff Trio with Tim Garland, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 11/05/2024

Tom Ollendorff – guitar, Victor Nyberg – double bass, Dave Ingamells – drums, Tim Garland – tenor & soprano saxophones

Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s May event featured rising star guitarist and composer Tom Ollendorff and his trio, who were joined by the internationally renowned saxophonist and composer Tim Garland.

Now based in London Ollendorff is a graduate of the Jazz Course at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff (RWCMD). During his time in Wales (around 2015) I was fortunate enough to witness him performing with a number of local and visiting jazz artists, among them fellow guitarist Deirdre Cartwright, pianist Atsuko Shimada and bassist Aidan Thorne’s band Duski. It was also in 2015 that Ollendorff was awarded a Yamaha Scholarship for outstanding jazz musicianship.

Around this time Ollendorff was also responsible for bringing the great Israeli born guitarist Gilad Hekselman over to the UK from New York for a short series of performances, including a memorable trio show (alongside bassist Joe Martin and drummer Jeff Ballard) at a sold out Dempsey’s in Cardiff. Ollendorff continues to maintain his links with Wales and is now a visiting tutor at the RWCMD. He has also worked as a guest tutor at other music colleges, both in the UK and internationally and has published “Etudes” a book of works for solo guitar that is available internationally via Faber Music.

Since moving to London Ollendorff has continued to hone his craft and has become an increasingly significant presence on the British and international jazz scenes, appearing regularly at prestigious venues and festivals in the UK and across Europe.  He has also worked with many leading musicians from North America.

Musicians from both sides of the Atlantic with whom Ollendorff has performed include saxophonists Ben Wendel, Geoff Simkins, Bill McHenry and Alex Western-King,  drummers Ari Hoenig, Jeff Williams, James Maddren and Billy Pod, pianists Aaron Parks, Fabrice Tarel, Huw Warren and Nitai Hershkovits, vocalist Megan Thomas, bassist Or Baraket and fellow guitarists Dave Cliff and Dekel Bor.

Ollendorff released his first album as a leader in 2021. “A Song For You” was released on the Barcelona based record label Fresh Sound New Talent and featured his regular working trio with bassist Conor Chaplin and French born, London based drummer Marc Michel.

The guitarist remained with FSNT for 2023’s follow up “Open House”, which again featured Chaplin and Michel and saw the New York based saxophonist Ben Wendel, of the band Kneebody, guesting on several tracks.

The FSNT connection also resulted in Ollendorff appearing on the 2023 album “Common Threads”, credited to The Fresh Sound Ensemble and released to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the FSNT imprint by label owner Jordi Pujol. An extensive line up featured British musicians associated with the label, among them Ollendorff, Chaplin, saxophonist Alex Hitchcock and many more. “Common Threads” is reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann, as are both of Ollendorff’s solo recordings.

It’s a mark of Ollendorff’s growing reputation as a musician and composer that he is able to work with musicians of the calibre of Ben Wendel and Tim Garland. The Ollendorff Trio have worked fairly regularly with Garland in recent months and an excellent rapport has been established between the saxophonist and his younger colleagues. On the evidence of tonight’s performance Garland appeared to be delighted to be playing with them and was positively bubbling with energy and inventiveness.

Garland is one of the most celebrated figures in British, a musician who has gained an international reputation thanks to his work with the late, great pianist and composer Chick Corea and his stint as a member of drummer Bill Bruford’s Earthworks group. He is also highly regarded for his work as a member of the long running Lighthouse Trio alongside pianist Gwilym Simcock and drummer / percussionist Asaf Sirkis. Prior to this Garland and Simcock had also collaborated as part of the ‘chamber jazz’ trio Acoustic Triangle, led by bassist Malcolm Creese.

Despite the fame of his illustrious guest this was essentially Ollendorff’s gig and he contributed the majority of the material and handled most of the announcements. Garland contributed two compositions, these closing the first set and opening the second. There were also three well chosen jazz and bebop standards.

At the time of the “A Song for You” album I observed;
“If there’s a fault it’s that it’s all a little too measured and tasteful. The overall mood of the album is reflective and lyrical and one would have appreciated a few more rough edges and a greater degree of light and shade and emotional and dynamic variation.”

I also added
“One suspects that the trio might be rather less reserved in live performance”

 That was most certainly the case this evening as the quartet attacked the material with relish, with both Ollendorff and Garland delivering thrillingly inventive solos, each musician responding to the other’s creativity. Sparks were really flying tonight, with the propulsive rhythms generated by Ingamells and Nyberg helping to inspire the front line soloists.

At the time of the release of “Open House” Ollendorff commented;
“The music was written, in part, on the road whilst touring. Different places have always had a profound effect on my writing process and the opportunity to tour extensively, allowing me to visit new towns, cities and countries as well as re-affirming connections with locations that I had previously got to know and love were the catalyst for this album’s creation”.

It was such a tune that began tonight’s musical journey. “Three Bridges”, the opening track on the album was inspired by the city of Edinburgh. On disc it’s one of the pieces that features the playing of Wendel, whose role here was taken on by Garland, his soaring sax melodies dovetailing effectively with Ollendorff’s guitar arpeggios. The leader took the first solo, followed by Garland on tenor, both musicians sparking off each other and stretching out expansively,  with the hard hitting Ingamells driving things forward from behind the kit. To these ears it was altogether punchier and more incisive than the recording and helped to get the evening off to a terrific start.

The Charlie Parker blues “Bongo Beep” also features on the “Open House” album, but as a trio performance. Tonight’s adaptation saw Garland added on tenor as the quartet tackled the tricky, bebop style head. A busy, bustling rendition included solo features for all four musicians, with Ingamells trading phrases with both Ollendorff and Garland towards the close.

Also sourced from the new album Ollendorff’s composition “Carnival” was inspired by the rhythms of Brazilian music. The recorded version is a trio piece but this evening Garland’s breezy soprano sax melodies were a welcome addition to the equation. The first solo went to Nyberg, whose melodic double bass excursion was followed by an Ollendorff guitar solo that gradually increased the intensity of the music. Garland then stretched out more expansively on soprano.

The “Open House” album features a solo guitar performance of the Victor Young composition “My Foolish Heart” and it was this song that also helped to provide some of the inspiration for Ollendorff’s own composition “Hollywood”. The guitarist watched a lot of 1930s and 40s Hollywood films over the lockdown period and was inspired to write a “warm, lush ballad” as a response. “Hollywood” saw Ingamells switching to brushes to support an introduction by the core trio and Ollendorff’s subsequent guitar solo. Wendel doesn’t play on the record but tonight’s version incorporated a tenor solo from Garland that gradually increased the energy levels, with Ingamells eventually changing to sticks. An unaccompanied guitar coda saw Ollendorff gently singing along to his own melodies, before double bass and brushed drums were re-introduced right at the close.

The final item of the first set was Garland’s composition “Break In The Weather”. Announcing his own tune the saxophonist took the opportunity of praising Ollendorff’s distinctive sound on the guitar and also his harmonic sophistication. The respect that these two musicians from different jazz generations had for each other was palpable throughout and gratifying to see.
This piece saw the composer reverting to soprano, first standing back during the trio’s introduction before cutting loose with a soaring solo above a surging rhythmic groove. Ollendorff then took over on guitar before Garland returned to restate theme and to enter into a series of lively exchanges with the excellent Ingamells. The crowd, numbering around seventy, went into the interval feeling very happy and well satisfied by what they had seen and heard.

It was also a Garland piece that opened the second half. “You Can’t Push The River” saw its composer moving to tenor and opening the proceedings unaccompanied. The addition of guitar plus rhythm saw Garland probing deeply and energetically, a puckish figure who stamped his feet as he soloed, really getting into it. Garland’s very obvious energy and enthusiasm was great to see and one got the impression that this cross-generational jazz alliance represents a positive for both parties. This fast paced, free-wheeling opener also included further solos from Ollendorff and Nyberg plus a drum feature from Ingamells.

Ollendorff called a standard written by Bronislaw Kaper as the next piece, but this proved to be “Invitation”, rather than the more familiar “On Green Dolphin Street”. This was introduced by Ingamells at the drums, subsequently joined by Garland on soprano sax and Nyberg at the bass as Ollendorff sat out the early stages. An intriguing arrangement positioned somewhere between modal jazz and conventional swing subsequently saw solos from Ollendorff and Garland plus a series of exchanges between these two and Ingamells.

Another standard followed in the form of “Darn That Dream”, performed as a ballad and introduced by an extended duet featuring the leader’s guitar and Garland’s tenor sax. Ollendorff took the first solo, followed by a delightfully melodic double bass feature from Nyberg. The piece then came full circle to conclude with a second guitar / tenor sax dialogue.

The performance ended with another of Ollendorff’s travel inspired compositions and another piece that appears on the “Open House” album. The recorded version features Wendel on tenor, but here Garland made the switch to soprano, taking flight as he shared the solos with Ollendorff.  Ingamells then weighed in with a powerful drum feature. The guitar and sax solos were among the most incandescent of a dazzling overall performance, with Ollendorff and Garland really ‘going for it’, driven forward by their colleagues in a highly supportive rhythm section.
As on the recording the piece was supplemented by the gentler “Istanbul Coda”, which commenced as a quiet passage of unaccompanied guitar, augmented for the only time by live looping effects and with Ollendorff singing along gently to the guitar melodies. During this section Garland had reverted to tenor sax and he briefly returned, along with bass and drums just before the close.

There was to be no topping this and no encore was to be forthcoming, despite being very much deserved. However we had heard so much magnificent music that I don’t think anybody was left feeling short changed.

Ollendorff’s own playing was a revelation. He’s kicked on enormously since his student days and his playing really has to be seen live to appreciate just how good he really is. In the main he favours a clean,  orthodox jazz guitar sound and he has developed into a wonderfully fluent, fleet fingered soloist with technique to burn, although there’s nothing overtly flashy about his playing. Garland spoke of Ollendorff’s harmonic sophistication and he is developing a guitar style that is increasingly his own, albeit with Gilad Hekselman still his primary influence. There was a refreshing lack of Metheny and Frisell guitar cliches this evening, although I have compared Ollendorff’s playing with Metheny in the past, mainly thanks to their shared gift for melodic composition.

The presence of the brilliant Garland in the band has resulted in Ollendorff ‘going for it’ a bit more, there was a real urgency and joyousness about his playing tonight that was good to see.

Meanwhile Garland was his incomparable self, a wonderfully fluent and inventive soloist who totally committed himself to the situation and played with real energy and fire, encouraging his younger bandmates every step of the way, even though it wasn’t really his gig. He was onstage all the time a fully integrated member of the ensemble and far more than ‘just a guest’.

Ingamells and Nyberg acquitted themselves well too, a well matched rhythm team who offered excellent support to Ollendorff and Garland and also made the most of their own soloing opportunities.

Overall this was a gig that I always thought was going to be good, but thanks to the vivacity of the performances it ultimately ended up exceeding my expectations. It’s also made me revisit and re-assess Ollendorff’s two albums. I’ve really enjoyed hearing these again as I’ve been writing this and have to concede that they’re even better than I gave them credit for first time around.

Well done to all involved and thanks to both Tim and Tom for speaking with me afterwards. Let’s hope that this is an alliance that can continue and which can eventually be documented on disc.









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