THERE’S a school of thought that says you should never go back – y’know, that was then, and now is now. But thank goodness the rule book can occasionally, for all the right reasons, be ripped up and emphatically trodden into the ground!
Back in 1995, rising British saxophonist Tim Garland began to put together and record his fourth solo project, Enter the Fire, with colleagues Jason Rebello (piano), Mick Hutton (bass) and Jeremy Stacey (drums), as well as bringing Gerard Presencer (trumpet, flugelhorn) into the fold; and the album was eventually completed and released in 1997. Garland recalls how, soon after, whilst staying at the New York apartment of vibraphonist Joe Locke, the pianist Billy Childs turned up – and, on hearing the album, requested a copy to give to a friend… who just turned out to be jazz icon Chick Corea. Thus began Tim Garland’s long friendship with Corea (quoted as saying of the saxophonist, “I wanted some of that fire in my band”) and consequently, many years of shared international success which show no sign of waning.
Twenty years down the line, now greatly-renowned UK saxophonist and composer Garland has rekindled the excitement of that significant moment by re-connecting with the same personnel, along with guest appearances from newer names on the scene – Tom Farmer, James Maddren and Ant Law – plus respected bassist Laurence Cottle. The result is a new 40-minute recording which focuses on the revered (and now resurgent) era of vinyl, offering a combination of four originals and two arrangements which, whilst redolent of late ’90s and earlier acoustic strains of straight-ahead jazz, feel as relevant and as fresh as ever, especially with a final, more contemporary flourish.
Tim Garland has long possessed an unmistakable signature sound – his assured vibrato and a no-holes-barred approach to lyrical phrasing, whilst also scaling the topmost heights of the register – and this album continually flows and coruscates to that potent combination, as well as affording the whole band the space to stretch out. Nine-minute opener Abiding Love achieves exactly that, its classic sound bubbling to the smooth meld of tenor and flugel against Rebello’s crystalline piano, which Presencer then cuts through with customary, tonally-bright trumpet improvisation. J.J. Johnson’s Lament is the perfect platform for Garland’s rich, characterful tenor lead (as the melodies begin to cascade freely, it really couldn’t be anyone else) with such a wonderfully spacial quality created by his quartet of Rebello, Farmer and Maddren. And title track Return to the Fire swings with unequivocal verve, led by Rebello’s sparkling runs – as if to proudly state “we’re back” – and certainly not withholding anything as Stacey’s deliberate drum rhythms cleverly shift gear into a pulsating final section.
Beautifully inquiring Valse pour Ravel somehow suggests the freedoms of a Pat Metheny / Lyle Mays composition, with Garland taking an eloquent soprano lead over romanticised piano, and Presencer’s flugel dreamily intertwining or magically dancing in unison. McCoy Tyner’s sumptuous Search for Peace remains one of jazz’s most haunting melodies, and here it develops into a particularly engaging, near-ten-minute exploration as Garland’s tenor revels in its unhurriedness, with Rebello taking the Tyner role exquisitely. To close, All Our Summers ripples to complex bass clarinet and electric guitar riffs over jabbing Fender Rhodes (Garland an especially versatile and colourful exponent of the bass clarinet) in a groove that perhaps harks back to those early NYC days, and almost fading before its time.
Released by Edition Records on 2 October 2015, Return to the Fire is available only in 12″ vinyl and digital download formats – at Bandcamp, as well as from online retailers and record stores. The lack of CD physicality might hinder some collectors, but this is a recording whose confidence, fluency and out-and-out jazz feel-good becomes irresistible.
Tim Garland saxophones, bass clarinet
Jason Rebello piano, Fender Rhodes
Gerard Presencer trumpet, flugelhorn (tracks 1, 3, 4 & 5)
Jeremy Stacey drums (tracks 1, 3, 4, 5 & 6)
Mick Hutton double bass (tracks 1, 4 & 5)
Tom Farmer double bass (tracks 2 & 3)
Laurence Cottle electric bass (track 6)
James Maddren drums (tracks 2 & 6)
Ant Law guitar (track 6)
Edition Records – EDNLP1063 (2015)