Review: Michael Garrick Big Band plus Garrick/ Etheridge

Michael Garrick Big Band outside Ronnie Scott’s, August 2011
Photo Credit: Sisi Burn. All Rights Reserved

Michael Garrick Big Band/ Chris Garrick and John Etheridge
(Ronnie Scott’s, part of Brit Jazz Fest, 2nd August 2011, review by Trevor Bannister)
If Chris Garrick and John Etheridge set the embers glowing in the first set of this magnificent double bill, then the appearance of the Michael Garrick Big Band really had the flames leaping to the ceiling in the second. This was jazz of the first order, inspired undoubtedly by the setting and unique atmosphere of Ronnie Scott’s, and enhanced by the club’s excellent sound system. “After all,” as Michael Garrick pointed out, “they have a Church of Coltrane in America; this club is the equivalent over here, except it’s dedicated to Ronnie Scott. Think of the musicians who’ve played here: it’s what we all aspire to.”

Quite how Chris Garrick and John Etheridge create such an astonishing range of sounds from the basic format of violin/guitar duo remains a mystery. The result, however, is a feast for the ears, as the pair express material drawn from a range of often unexpected sources in a manner which explores every nuance and subtlety to the full. Who would have thought that a corny Country & Western warhorse might turn up on a jazz gig, but their interpretation of ‘Tennessee Waltz’ revealed an aching
pathos to the song which had previously lain hidden.

In a trice, the duo could switch from the haunting qualities of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Mercy Street’ to the colour and excitement of a South African township in Abdullah Ibrahim’s ‘Msunduza’, the gentle swing of the Hot Club of France with ‘Let’s Fall in Love’ and ‘Undecided’, evoke the Brazilian rainforest with Luiz Bonfa’s ‘Gentle Rain’, or bring the house down with laughter with an hilarious ‘Blue Moon’; the violin sounding like the wheezing of a tobacco addict on his first cigarette of the day.

Great music! But for this listener, the standout performance of the set came with the final number, Ennio Morricone’s bitter-sweet theme to ‘Hotel Paradiso’.

The final member of the trumpet section had just squeezed into his place at the back of the bandstand when Michael Garrick counted in the big band and let rip with the scat introduction to George Wallington’s ‘Lemon Drop’. What an opener! With Sam Bullard’s baritone to the fore and the rest of the band chomping-at-the-bit for solo space, there was no doubt that the audience were in for a rare treat. The standard never faltered for a moment throughout the ninety-minute set. ‘Night Time’ brought a change of mood, with excellent solos from Dave Shulman on alto and Gabriel Garrick on flugel-horn, more than justifying an airing after a lifetime spent in the back drawer of Garrick senior’s music file. How many more treasures remain to be discovered?

Garrick’s admiration for Joe Harriott found expression in two numbers by the great altoist; ‘Spiritual Blues’, a great tune, propelled by Matt Ridley and Alan Jackson in the rhythm section, with a lovely searing introduction involving just about the entire orchestra, followed by ‘Abstract’. Joe Harriott invented European free-form jazz and first recorded this in 1960. Dave Shulman stated Harriott’s original solo and then it was every-man-for-himself, culminating in a wonderful solo by bass-trombonist Dave Eaglestone, in which, to the delight of the audience, he extracted ultra-low notes from his instrument. Encouraging everyone to efforts of ever more ferocity, Garrick held the proceedings together with a masterful touch, literally sculpturing the sound as it soared into passionate chaos.

‘Lady of the Aurian Wood’, the CD title of Garrick’s “magic life of Duke” prompted a guest appearance by the superb Nette Robinson, whose crystal diction and warm vocal tones perfectly captured this evocation of sunrise over a fairytale forest.

‘Floating On Summer’ evoked an equally appealing vision of clouds drifting across an infinity of blue sky. Excellent solos from Dave Shulman on soprano sax and the bass of Matt Ridley.

‘Shiva’, dating back to Garrick’s first quartet and a residency in Ronnie Scott’s Gerrard Street Club in 1959, raised the temperature again with Andrew Linham really digging in on alto. Further reflections on Ronnie and his many kindnesses led into ‘Say Your Prayers’, one of a brand new blues trilogy dedicated to him. This piece struck a mighty blues groove with Garrick’s rolling boogie introduction, and for this
writer was the absolute highlight of the evening; fine solos all round and all the more fascinating for the sudden breaks in tension and short interpolations between Garrick and guitarist Chris Allard.

As the set moved towards a close Nette joined the band again for a hilarious ‘Midsummer Departures’ followed by a feature for Tony Woods on tenor, ‘Rustat’s Grave Song’ from Garrick’s Jazz Praises at St Paul’s. Too often confined to the quiet backwaters of the British jazz scene, this show proved that the Michael Garrick Big Band has a worthy place in the roster of all that have graced the stage at Ronnie Scott’s. We look forward to much more from it.

Full personnel: Gabriel Garrick, George Hogg, Rory Simmons, Steve Fishwick (tps)
Dave Eaglestone, Martin Gladdish, Mattias Eskilsson (tbs);
Dave Shulman, Andrew Linham, Sam Walker, Tony Woods, Sam Bullard( rds);
Chris Allard(g); Michael Garrick (p);Matt Ridley (bs); Alan Jackson (d); Nette Robinson (vcl).


Categories: miscellaneous

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