Tim Garland Electric Quartet
(Hobgoblin Pavilion. Manchester Jazz Festival. 24th July 2016. Report and photographs by Adrian Pallant)
As the audience took to their seats for Tim Garland’s headline performance at the 2016 Manchester Jazz Festival, a growing sense of anticipation was tangible. After all, the British reedsman’s credentials speak for themselves in a career which has seen him working on countless solo and collaborative jazz projects, including notable stints with legendary artists Chick Corea and Bill Bruford. Playing broadly from recent album release ONE, Garland was joined by his colleagues in this new ‘Electric Quartet’ – Jason Rebello (piano/keyboards), Ant Law (guitars) and Asaf Sirkis (drums/percussion).
As both composer and saxophonist, Garland possesses a distinctive musical persona – yet this project, in which he judiciously also contributes electronic percussion, takes the instrumental possibilities a good deal further. His working relationships with the brilliant Rebello and Sirkis go back many years, but it was previous album Songs to the North Sky which introduced the multifarious skills of young guitarist Ant Law to establish this quartet – and how he shone across this two-hour live set.
Much of the ONE album material was intensely ‘roadworked’ prior to the album recording – so it was satisfying to marvel at the way all four members communicated and integrated to develop this original music in a live setting, as Garland visibly encouraged each band member’s solo improvisations to push increasingly higher. Following the cheery, acoustic positivity of Bright New Day, the set unfolded to reveal the saxophonist’s fusion sensibilities in Foretold, which culminated in a thunderous extended duel between Law’s electric guitar and Sirkis’ typically dynamic exploration of the kit as Garland’s electronically-clustered soprano dazzled.
Amongst the exactitude of rapid, through-composed riffs, this band clearly delights in the individual moments of invention, Garland quoting Spike Milligan – “A jazz musician never does the same thing once” – before entering darkly brooding The Eternal Greeting. Rhodes and sustained synth voicings in grooving Colours of Night were full of Zawinulese spirit, also demonstrating that both Rebello and Law (on electric 8-string) impressively saturate the lower resonances without need of a bassist – and the Middle Eastern inflections became further enhanced by Sirkis’ nimble, rhythmic Konnakol vocalisations.
Chick Corea’s Windows enjoyed the beautifully gruff tones of Garland’s bass clarinet (his “double misery stick”) in an interpretation which brought out the flamenco hues of Law’s semi-acoustic ‘Silent guitar’, as well as flamboyant Latinesque piano grandeur; and old favourite Rosa Ballerina was delightfully breezy. Prog-tinged Sama’i for Peace featured fizzing, extended Rhodes improv from Rebello; Garland put in some seriously wild tenor soloing on Yes to This; and thunderous jazz/rock closer Prototype (dedicated to Bill Bruford, and with more than a hint of Earthworks) brought the house down.
Wishing we could take Garland at his word – “We could play all night, we’ve got loads of songs” – the most sublime encore, the Miles Davis/Bill Evans tune Blue in Green, confirmed why his tenor playing is so lauded; and why this versatile band can entertain on so many levels.
Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, jazz writer and musician who also reviews at his own site ap-reviews.com