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Review: Michael Garrick Big Band

Michael Garrick Big Band
(Maida Vale Studio 3, June 14th 2010, review by Frank Griffith)

Recent recipient of the MBE, jazz pianist and composer, Michael Garrick was directing a big band for a Jazz Line Up recording at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios. The two hour recording session, in front of an appreciative audience followed a four hour rehearsal earlier that afternoon, apparently. The band’s precision and endurance were certainly put to the test with that kind of gruelling schedule. But Mike, like his late colleague, Sir John Dankworth, is no stranger to rehearsal and at age 76, why should he change now?

Garrick’s music, not unlike Sir JD’s has a distinct British quality about it celebrating the culturally great and the good that the UK has to offer. From pieces based on Thomas Hardy quotes (“Hardy Country”) to his innovative work combing Jazz and Poetry in the 1960s with such important jazz figures of the day like Joe Harriott (see picture above) and Shake Keane.

The concert had a real sense of continuity, a feeling of several pieces being joined up as one. But “Lady of the Aurian Wood” stood out in particular, if only for its majestic poignancy. Some hints of 1940s Ellingtonia saxophone textures were evident with its understated but lyrical melody combined with more modern harmonies. This was was accentuated by the saxophone section’s almost sotto voce delivery of the theme, bringing out the fairy-tale qualities of this magical lady. A welcome change of pace too – the tempi of several of the other pieces were frenetic.

Many plaudits to the outstanding trumpet section and their versatilty in negotiating the composer’s labyrinthine and angular melodic lines, while all contributing individual improvisational forays of ther own. A melliflous Martin Shaw was offset by the sparky boisterousness of Steve Waterman who in turn was calmed down sufficiently by the relentless fluidity of Steve Fishwick. His several inspired choruses on “Bobby Shaftoe” scored top honours in ther solo stakes on this night. Also deserving of special mention was the double duty of lead trumpeter, Gabriel Garrick, contributing equally in both capacities, as section leader as well as soloist.

Not to be outdone, the band’s various saxophone and trombone soloists (too numerous to mention) all shone excellently on their frequent but all-too brief solo excursions. The sterling drumming of longtime Garrick sideman Alan Jackson also deserves special mention.

The leader’s ever so entertaining comments, often quite funny (his posh accented imitation of a goverment minister’s desire to bring “culture” to the great unwashed was a delight), were equally laced with not too subtle asides and barbs pointed at the powers that be. These, coupled with promotion of his new autobiography written by Trevor Bannister “Dusk Fire- Jazz in English Hands” occupied a fair measure of the two hour recording. Jazz Lineup is a 90 minute show, so much of this will no doubt be edited out, leaving the broadcast to feature above all the fine music.

All in all, an enriching listen and showcase of one of the UK’s finest proponents of this music and after 50 years of broadcasting, there are no signs of Mike Garrick slowing down. Long may he prosper!

The concert will be broadcast on Jazz Line Up on August 1st

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