LP Review: Michael Garrick Sextet – Prelude to Heart is a Lotus

Michael Garrick Sextet – Prelude to Heart is a Lotus
(Gearbox GB1517. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

One of the great losses to British jazz of recent years was the death of Michael Garrick in 2011 at the age of 78. But, without wishing to descend into the saccharin, there is a sense in which the music lives on after the man is gone and we can take some comfort in that. What’s more, sometimes we discover music that we didn’t even know existed, and then it’s like the missing artist is still out there, producing works for our surprise and pleasure.

The Heart is a Lotus was a classic 1970 album by the Michael Garrick Sextet originally released on the Decca subsidiary Argo. The new album is taken from the BBC radio archives. It originated with a 1968 Jazz in Britain programme, so it is indeed a prelude to the Argo album. And it sounds simply great.

This version shares three tracks with the original LP (all the compositions are by Michael Garrick) and the same line-up of musicians, except here we don’t have the contributions of Art Themen on reeds, Dave Green on bass or — perhaps most significantly — Norma Winstone’s vocals.

The new album (paradoxically, older than the old one) opens with  the tune The Heart is a Lotus featuring Michael Garrick unexpectedly playing harpsichord, to the accompaniment of Jim Philip’s eerie flute and the insistent, probing trumpet of Ian Carr, all to hypnotic effect. Particularly striking is the way Mike Garrick plumbs the depths of the harpsichord, turning it into an effective jazz instrument and playing it in a way you (or at least I) never heard before.

The rest of Side 1 is devoted to over 12 minutes of the appropriately entitled Sweet and Sugary Candy. In utter contrast to the title track it is jaunty, joyful and upbeat — a light hearted lotus —with swaggering trumpet  from Carr and sweetly judicious piano from the leader. A transported Coleridge Goode sings along to his double bass while Mike Garrick’s piano taps him on the shoulder to offer comment and encouragement. This track has such assertive strut and swagger you might think you’re listening to a big band. It also offers a corking Don Rendell soprano sax solo, which manages to remain lyrical and to evoke Basin Street while pouring out a bebop torrent.

John Philip distinguishes himself again with his high, piercing, bittersweet flute in the elegiac Webster’s Mood. But on the gently measured and sweetly hypnotic Song by the Sea — another track from the 1970 album — the articulate, wheedling flute is by Don Rendell. This is one of the highpoints of the record, melodic and moving, and Mike Garrick provides a beautiful shimmering patina on the celeste. And there is another bass-and-vocal homage to Slam Stewart from Coleridge. Good On Temple Dancer, the third track shared with the original LP, the Eastern influence suggested by the album’s title comes to the fore. There is weaving, sinuous snake charmer flute courtesy of Jim Philip and intense trumpet from Ian Carr combining with the relentlessly marching bass of Coleridge Goode and the percussion of Trevor Tomkins in a manner reminiscent of Sketches of Spain.

The final offering, Little Girl, has a deep yearning quality and features Ian Carr’s trumpet at its most melancholy and expressive.

Gearbox deserve warm congratulations for finding this remarkable recording and rescuing it for us.

Categories: miscellaneous

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