Flight Mode (Fly), the new album from top jazz violinist Chris Garrick, is dominated by ‘5-way Suite.’ In this 23-minute programmatic piece, running over five tracks, Garrick leads his rhythm section on a merry dance of moods and styles, switching between acoustic and electric fiddle with ease, and generally displaying his own special brand of high-wire improvisation and compositional flair. Each movement has its own title and corresponding mood. ‘Pigeon Among the Cats’ is suitably mischievous, and Garrick delives both a surprise, and a contrast with what has gone before, with the final piece: ‘When We Wake Up We’ll Be Somewhere Else’ is the most delicate of ballads.
Speaking to me ahead of the London launch of Flight Mode at 606 Club on Tuesday (Nov. 30th), Garrick referred to this latest recording with David Gordon (keys), Ole Rasmussen (bass) and Tom Hooper (drums) as “the most personal sort of project I do”. As a much sought-after session musician and sideman – he comes to the capital following a tour with John Etheridge – Garrick cherishes his solo recordings as an outlet for ambitious music like ‘5-way Suite’. “As I play a lot of more traditional music of one sort or another, it’s nice to also keep the contemporary side up,” he says.
This is the first album Garrick has recorded with this group of players since Firewire five years ago, but the quartet has been developing this new music over some time, and it shows. “It’s great to log another chapter with the guys” he says. As well as the new suite, the new record features a couple of standards, including a hard-driving adaption of ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ (“trying to squeeze something new out of a well known piece,” is how Garrick puts it), and compositions by Garrick and current and former band members. With a magnetic groove that motors towards a breakneck finale, ‘June’, by former Chris Garrick Quartet pianist Pete James, is a particular highlight.
One new innovation on Flight Mode is Garrick’s use of a newish seven-stringed Jordan fiddle. “It’s a specific animal and is only useful for special occasions,” he explains. “It’s very well designed, but it’s a question of using it only when it fits with the music.” Apparently, Nigel Kennedy told Garrick that he personally wouldn’t play anything more than a five-string, but for Garrick the range of the instrument gives it appeal. “In a solo piece, it’s amazing to be able to go down low,” he says. It’s a typical standpoint to take for a musician who, unlike Kennedy, is an improviser first and a virtuoso second.
It will be interesting to see how a through-composed piece like the ‘5-way Suite’ will play out in 606, how far Garrick and Co. will stray from its neat architecture. Either way, I’ll wager that plenty of copies of Flight Mode will be shifted post-show.
Tim Woodall runs the Culture Capital blog