‘Songs to the North Sky’ – Tim Garland

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THERE ARE TIMES, on my long and increasingly rewarding musical journey, that I feel urged to express gratitude to particular musicians whose work has become a long-term source of enjoyment and inspiration.

Falling firmly into this category is the instrumental and compositional prowess of reedsman Tim Garland, for many years now a respected mainstay of the British jazz scene. With a long roll-call of collaborators, projects and albums (most notably Chick Corea, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, Dean Street Underground Orchestra and his own Lighthouse Trio), this most assured of saxophonists continues to develop and expand his artistic vocabulary, always with that warm signature vibrato.

Signed to progressive label Edition Records, Garland has now released this double album, Songs to the North Sky – featuring an impressive, interchanging quartet (seven musicians in all), and expertly configured orchestral/percussive forces – which represents a still higher pinnacle of writing and performance.

Part One focuses on the quartet material: eight tracks which bounce with characteristic ebullience, but also shimmer with expansive and often emotional beauty. Tim Garland’s dependable yet always exciting rhythm-maker, Asaf Sirkis, is key to proceedings, combining with the bubbling momentum of pianist Geoffrey Keezer and guitarist Ant Law on supercharged opener Uplift! The lightness of Kevin Glasgow’s electric bass and luminous piano of Jason Rebello refract the smooth golden rays of Little Sunshine, over which Garland’s tenor sings mellifluously. A Brother’s Gift finds a more reflective space, courtesy of Law’s steel strings and Sirkis’s distinctive custom kit – and often it’s the small details which please the ear, such as Garland’s ornamental phrasing, and also one particular end-of-phrase expiration here (odd, but true!).

There’s a hint of Earthworks days in the leader’s command of Yes to This, John Turville and Ant Law both sparkling with positivity; The Perth Flight‘s propulsive energy offers a great showcase for both Garland and Rebello; and Farewell to Ed is a delightfully freer episode, enhanced by Law’s subtly overdriven electric guitar explorations. Garland has long been a champion of the bass clarinet, and his unmistakably fluid ‘voice’ is heard in Lammas Days (along with flute), an exuberant celebration of the magic conjured between these versatile musicians. A soprano and piano interpretation of Tom Bahler’s She’s Out of My Life (Michael Jackson) closes this sequence; in less capable hands, so easily mawkish and shallow – but Garland and Rebello elevate it to somewhere very special.

The larger, themed work, Songs to the North Sky – supported by Sage Gateshead and Royal Northern College of Music – forms the second half of this release, and creatively draws on the dramatic open landscapes of Tim’s Garland’s adopted North East England homeland. Whereas 2008’s double album Libra found the composer writing on a larger, symphonic scale (the four-movement Frontier with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), there is an even greater organic balance here, successfully fusing saxes and percussion with The Royal Northern Sinfonia Strings. The result is genuinely compelling – a 50-minute episodic jazz/orchestral masterpiece which vividly paints Northumberland’s rugged coastlines and wide skies, Garland often hinting at 20th Century English string writing (Tippett, Vaughan Williams, Rodney Bennett) as well as Glass, Pärt, and even Celtic influences which are colorised by the energetic violin soloing of Magdalena Filipczak. Asaf Sirkis melds perfectly with the suspense of Neil Percy’s classical percussion; and John Patitucci’s four equally interspersed bass interludes are remarkable – certainly not bass ‘fillers’ but, rather, beautifully imagined, skilful miniatures in their own right.

With both CDs regularly alternating in my car audio player for the past couple of weeks, I emphatically recommend this significant new release – and if you’re searching for stars (maybe over Kielder’s dark sky zone)… here they are ★★★★★.

Available from 2 June 2014, listen to samples and buy here.

 

Tim Garland tenor and soprano sax, bass clarinet, flute
Jason Rebello piano (tracks 2, 5, 7 & 8)
John Turville piano (tracks 3, 4 & 6)
Geoffrey Keezer piano (track 1)
Asaf Sirkis drum kit, custom percussion set, hang
Ant Law electric and steel string guitars (tracks 1, 3, 4 & 6)
Kevin Glasgow electric bass (tracks 2, 5 & 7)
The Royal Northern Sinfonia Strings
John Patitucci double and electric basses
Neil Percy tuned and classical percussion
Magdalena Filipczak solo violin

timgarland.com

Edition Records – EDN1051 (2014)

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‘Anything But Look’ – Jason Rebello

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A NEW solo studio release from Jason Rebello was always going to be something of an event, given his track record as one of the UK’s most respected jazz/rock keyboard players – and, with an album a year in the making, he’s certainly back with a funky, soulful BANG!

The excitement of ‘Anything But Look’ is due, in part, to so many of its ten originals having considerable commercial appeal (easily radio hits) – yet, delving deep into the detail, there is much to savour in terms of differing vocal performances, shifting time signatures and modulations, clever tricks, flicks and textures… all held together by Rebello’s multifarious, entertaining keyboard work. He has a terrific understanding of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of jazz (his Steinway-only interpretations of standards and folksong were brilliantly displayed in a recent acoustic trio gig at Kings Place with Stephen Keogh on drums and bassist Alex Davis). Here, he combines that mastery with his vast experience of touring over the years as keyboardist for the likes of Jeff Beck, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Joss Stone.

The hand-picked personnel of established and up-and-coming instrumental and vocalist friends provide a sumptuous programme, the result being an intensely joyous, positive and personal album which Rebello describes as “a musical kaleidoscope of jazz, soul, Latin, funk and rock, painting a picture of a soul’s journey into the unknown. We all are made up of light and dark, but we don’t usually want to acknowledge what we really are, due to a fear that we may discover something terrible… we will do anything, but look!”

The funkiest of electric bass and clav grooves open the show, celebrated soul singer Omar’s resolute tones delivering the catchy Know What You Need, Pino Palladino providing a fantastic ground for Rebello’s typically glittering piano and electric piano soloing. Sumudu Jayatilaka’s beguiling voice intertwines effortlessly with Rebello’s piano on The Man on the Train (with a hint, maybe, of Gordon Sumner in its sublime slower section) – and Troy Miller’s drums, the percussion of Miles Bould and Karl Rasheed-Abel’s acoustic bass provide the irresistible pulse. Bouncy 7/8 instrumental Without a Paddle, with cheeky contrary motion hook and Paul Stacey’s bristling guitar, is breathlessly compelling – so much going on, a real smile-inducer!

Solid bass and pitch-bent synth characterise the beautifully-measured chill-out title track Anything But Look before Alicia Carroll’s soprano voice brings theatrical urgency to the more sinister Dark Night of the Soul, an intoxicating multitracked masterclass in Rebello’s considerable piano and keyboard prowess – breathtaking to listen closely. With Immediate Effect flows along with all the amiability of a Lyle Mays/Pat Metheny favourite, backing vocals, guitar and synth soloing the key to this likeness. Sadness-tinged ballad Is This How? features the vocals of US jazz/R&B singer Will Downing and the adept, prodigious drumming of Rebello’s 14 year-old son George – a particularly beautiful, poignant and memorable chorus here; and young singer Jacob Collier’s precise wordless vocals are a perfect match for the bright keys of In The Thick Of It, jazz stalwart Tim Garland (on flute) adding to the lightness of touch.

Joy Rose’s vocal warmth and dexterity in the deliberate, soulful New Joy symbolise the sincerity of this release, Miller and Palladino again creating a fantastic rhythm, Rebello and Garland just magnificent – joy all round! Concluding, Xantoné Blacq presents the uplifting, perhaps even spiritual lyric of Lighten Up The Load, the Latin flavour of Bould’s percussion and Rebello’s piano octaves taking us on our onward journey.

Released on LYTE Records on 4 November 2013, the fervour and craftsmanship of ‘Anything but Look’ are stunningly evident. Indeed, Jason Rebello’s creativity, optimism and technical wizardry might well encourage us through the long, dark winter months – as the fade-out whispers, “See you on the other side”!……

 

Jason Rebello keyboards; bass, track 7; backing vocals, track 6
Troy Miller drums, tracks 1,2,3,4,5,8,9,10; guitar, track 7; percussion, track 4
Pino Palladino bass guitar, tracks 1,4,6,7,9,10
Karl Rasheed-Abel acoustic bass, tracks 2,3,5,8
Paul Stacey guitar, tracks 3,6,9
Jeremy Stacey drums, track 6
George Rebello drums, track 7
Miles Bould percussion, tracks 1,2,3,10
Tim Garland flute, bass clarinet, tracks 8,9
Joy Rose vocals, track 9; backing vocals, tracks 1,6,9,10
Omar Lye-Fook vocals, track 1
Sumudu Jayatilaka vocals, track 2
Alicia Carroll vocals, track 5
Will Downing vocals, track 7
Jacob Collier vocals, track 8
Xantoné Blacq vocals, track 10
Aja Downing backing vocals, track 7

jasonrebello.com

LYTE Records – LR021 (2013)