Tag Archives: Tim Garland

Gigs of 2014

Maciek Pysz_Pizza ExpressOver the past year I have gradually moved from being “just” a member of the audience to an active promoter for a small jazz club and I’m the booking agent for a jazz musician.   And this has had quite an effect on how I experience live music.   I now know just how hard it is to get gigs, how a malfunctioning monitor means a musician cannot hear himself or anyone else,  how not wearing your earplugs as a drummer is to risk serious damage to your eardrums. All of these things, and more, make me marvel at the musicians I have heard this year.     So here are a few sketches of many happy hours:

Marius Neset in Brecon Cathedral in August.  The sheer effort of Marius’s performance –  seeing him gasp like a marathon runner, his body almost doubled over as he tried to take in air after filling the vaults with incredible blood curdling sound.  A friend overheard to say “I don’t mind I never saw John Coltrane, because now I  have seen Marius Neset.”

Jef Neve , solo, at Kings Place in November.   A performance that moved me very much, especially Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You, a song  which Jef said had saved his life several times.  His simple heartfelt introductions to each song, like we were in his living room, enhanced the enjoyment.   His album One  is on my Christmas list.

Maciek Pysz at Pizza Express in March with Yuri Goloubev, Asaf Sirkis and Tim Garland.   Reviewed here.  And remembered most for the achingly beautiful Beneath an Evening Sky by Ralph Towner with duo between Tim and Maciek.

Phronesis at Union Chapel in May.  Clouds of dry ice softening our view in a huge venue, Anton’s smile when he saw friends on the front row. Jasper’s jokes. The sheer joy and energy of it, a wonderful huge sound, the retention of intimacy in a big space.

 Michael Wollny at Cheltenham Jazz Festival in April.    I decided not to listen to anything by him before the gig, I had heard of his reputation, but I wanted to discover him for myself. So I was completely blown away by his virtuosity,  huge presence and the togetherness of his trio, and the way I just “got” the music, from plain chant to rock.  He did not disappoint.  It’s great to be able to write that.

Roller Trio at Stratford Jazz in October.    It was such an honour to host Mercury Prize winners.   It’s not just that they write such catchy tunes, instantly hummable, their own sound.    It’s how they are on stage – no-nonsense, let’s get on with it and see what happens and let’s make sure people enjoy it because we will be enjoying it.  Banks of pedals in front of James.   Sounds that made your blood run cold with excitement and fear almost.  Luke’s drumming that could be heard down the street.

All these performances have one thing in common – they moved me, my life was richer because of them, and that is why they are my gigs of 2014.   Thank you, every one.

Mary James 16 December 2014

Concert review: Maciek Pysz Trio at Pizza Express Soho London, 25 March 2014

Maciek Pysz_Pizza ExpressPerhaps as I write this I am subconsciously influenced by the proximity of the British Museum and the Elgin Marbles, but something about last night lodges in my thoughts under the heading ‘Timeless’, something about earthly nature being united with ideal heavenly beauty.   There were many moments in the opening concert at Pizza Express of guitarist Maciek Pysz’s Insight album tour that made a connection, for me anyway, between our physical presence, the transience of life and much deeper truths.

This is a trio of superstars, Yuri Goloubev on bass and Asaf Sirkis on percussion. They hadn’t played together since November but those intervening months have only served to deepen their harmony as a trio, their instinctive support of each other.  There was a darker feeling to the compositions, they took them slightly slower than the album, giving us the opportunity to relish the cool transcendency of Asaf’s drumming, the earthiness of Yuri’s mastery of his bass where the vibrations of his bowing come through the floor to connect you to the sound, and Maciek’s delight in tiny sounds like static floating in the air. His was a restrained performance, not showy, just impressive by what it omitted.

To celebrate the start of the tour, Maciek invited Tim Garland to join them for several compositions including a new piece by Maciek called Desert.  When Tim joined them for Those Days, the slightly Elizabethan dance feel of the original became a dark dense tango.  And Insights (with its many notes) was strongly syncopated.  But perhaps the zenith of this celestial evening was Ralph Towner’s Beneath an Evening Sky, which Tim has played with Ralph Towner.  The gentle serene soprano sax in conversation with the guitar was very special, with space for Yuri and Asaf to add to the quiet atmosphere, the tiny pattering steps of hands on udu drum grounding us again.

A couple of weeks ago I speculated whether this guitar/sax partnership would be Bill Frisell / Tom Rainey or Ralph Towner / Jan Garbarek.  It was neither of course,  it was subtle and mellow, and deeply satisfying.  After the final piece, the audience were silent for just a beat, we had been taken somewhere very special.

Try to see this wonderful trio somewhere on their tour. You will catch some of the magic.

Photo by Clement Regert.

Mary James 26 March 2014


Preview: Maciek Pysz Trio with Tim Garland, Pizza Express Jazz Soho, 25 March 2014

Maciek PyszWhy not start a major UK tour with a flourish?  That’s what Maciek Pysz has decided to do in launching his tour at Pizza Express Soho on Tuesday 25 March and he has chosen saxophonist of the moment, Tim Garland, to guest with him.  There have been some very celebrated guitarist/saxophonist partnerships in the past which seem to encompass every possible nuance:  Joe Pass and Zoot Sims (jaunty);  Pat Metheny and Joshua Redman (warm);  Ralph Towner and Jan Garbarek (glacial); and to me, most intriguing of all, Bill Frisell and Tim Berne ( as in M from ‘Theoretically’  –  just plain extraordinary – with its chiming, bell-tolling-like guitar undercurrent,  discordant sax which melts into something quite mellow but still remaining menacing).

What all these partnerships have in common is equality of relationship, you listen for both artists.  So by inviting Tim Garland to be his guest at an important gig, Maciek Pysz is making a very bold statement.   In a recent podcast for London Jazz  News, Maciek said he’d written a syncopated classical piece after being inspired by Chic Corea’s ‘The Continents’. This piece eventually appeared for his trio as Insights on his debut album ‘Insight’.  The Continents featured none other than Tim Garland.  So it is will be very interesting to see and hear how their partnership is presented at Pizza Express.   Buy a ticket and find out!

Book tickets for the gig at Pizza Express here.  If you can’t make Pizza Express then please make an effort to see the Trio at one of the other concerts on the tour, details on Maciek’s website.  You won’t be disappointed, the Trio’s onstage chemistry is electric and deeply wondrous, and the album ‘Insight’ is very beautiful. And lucky people in Edinburgh get a solo performance!

Mary James 5 March 2014

Review: Simcock/Garland/Sirkis – Lighthouse at Brecon Jazz Festival 11 August 2012

There was a real buzz of excitement at the Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, it was Saturday night and Lighthouse were up against the men’s 5000m race at the Olympic Stadium!  Lighthouse are a super-group comprising Tim Garland on various reeds, Gwilym Simcock on piano and Asaf Sirkis on percussion.  In their 75 minutes set we were treated to most of the album called Lighthouse (released earlier this year, celebrating their signing to ACT) and some old and new material.

What’s different about Lighthouse? Well, no bass for a start. And a fascinating drum kit for Asaf to conjure delightful sounds out of.   Not just a hang, but tiny cymbals, tambourines played like drums, tinkly bells and an earthenware instrument called an udu which looks like the moroccan tagine you might cook in.  Asaf plays the hang in the orthodox way with his fingers (not the Portico Quartet way) and in his hands it becomes a magical thing, the sound floating around the theatre, lingering in our memories still longer.   His extended solo on ‘King Barolo’ was a delight. We hear his interest in Indian rhythms, his pleasure in playing is captivating.

Here’s their genius, ‘One morning’ is a hymn to a new saxophone and a lament for a lost friend. It manages to be both wistful and celebratory at the same time.  Tim’s sax is at its most silky on ‘King Barolo’.  He played bass clarinet on the Spanish-influenced ‘Bajo del Sol’, Asaf’s drums reminding me of leopard running across a savannah.

It’s always a delight to listen to Gwilym’s light touch, especially evident in the thoughtful ‘The Wind on the Water’.  He manages to play a lot of notes without it sounding cluttered or heavy. He reminds me a little of John Taylor, with his delicacy, space and pastoral calm. I would say “Englishness” but Gwilym is, of course, Welsh.

The new tracks were ‘Empires’ by Gwilym and an amusing piece called ‘Accidental Tango’.  ‘Empires’ contained very dense layers of sound and different textures broken by delicate plucking of the piano strings. Tim told us that Astor Piazzolla described the best tempo for a tango as like someone standing behind you with a knife. With that scarey thought in mind the artists tried to trip each other up with abrupt stops and starts in ‘Accidental Tango’.   Like mind-readers they did not falter, they are a supergroup after all. At one stage all three artists were playing percussion and enjoying it immensely.

There are two tracks that I think are crying out for release as vinyl singles (if ACT does such a popular thing?). They are ‘Space Junk’ with its heavy insistent nightclub-like beat and the danceable ‘King Barolo’ with instantly memorable tune picked out by the hang.  I feel very strongly that tunes are important in engaging an audience and maybe a younger one.  As Branford Marsalis puts it in a recent Jazzwise article (Aug 2012) “the audience is not interested in doing extra homework to appreciate a jazz concert”.  So tunes and a strong beat are a way in.  Space Junk quickly leaves clubbing behind with its jaunty haunting melodica (a harmonica-like instrument, the sound we love on Asaf’s ‘Other Stars and Planets’). It opens the album and gets you in the mood for all the surprises to come.

The sound mixing at Theatr Brycheiniog was perfect and appreciated by artists and audience.    If I have one tiny reservation about them, it is to wonder why there is no material by Asaf in their repertoire?

And did they take our minds off the 5000m race? Well yes they did, until we got home!