Michael Garrick Big Band – London Jazz Festival 2006 (Live Review)

“Michael Garrick’s music is a masterly synthesis of head and heart. It possesses sufficient freedom in the general structure to allow spur-of-the-moment extensions.”

So says Alun Morgan on the sleeve notes to the 1974 album Troppo and nothing has changed in the intervening years on the basis of his London Jazz Festival ‘residency’ at the Sunday Lunch session at the Spice Of Life.
It seems timely that with the ‘My Name Is Albert Ayler’ film showing at the festival and the re-issue of Archie Shepp’s Kwanza we should show some love for this veteran of jazz who was never afraid of being ‘free’ and continues to be so. Ironically, I was chatting to the woman next to me before this gig last year, she happened to mention that Michael is a regular at Harpenden club where they also have regular trad jazz bands adding “I don’t like any avant-garde stuff.”
Well, she didn’t seem to mind Garrick’s Big Band as he continues to spread the ‘gospel’ of his hero and friend, pioneer, . Strangely enough, I happened upon a link between trad and as early as 1961, when Chris Barber was at his peak, who should he invite to the London Palladium “Jazz News” Poll Winners’ Concert as a “Guest Star”? Not only did he duet with Ian Wheeler (Clarinet) on Gerswin’s ‘S Wonderful’ that they also did Harriott’s own, ‘Revival’. The sleeve notes mention “the sound was even a trifle awkward” and while there was warm applause on the live recording, you can imagine the winces of trad fans at this [very] modern jazz intrusion.
Could there have possibly been a period of trad/free hybridisation? Well we’ll leave that for another Peterson ‘Revival’. Of course, we’re grateful to and BBC Four’s Jazz Britannia, which got us inspired to look back at the British take on 60s and 70s jazz. And Garrick is happy to play his big hitDusk Fire‘ in his big band ensemble (a real treat). However, the highlight for me was the Joe Harriott piece that he did. I can still feel the woman next to me politely clapping at the end of the free style blast.
A great afternoon out and it just proves there’s much more to the London Jazz Festival than mainline acts.
We’ve featured many of the artists appearing at the Festival this year so it’s looking like the best ever!
Mike Garrick, 12-Nov-06, Spice of Life, 6 Moor Street, W1 Tel: 020 7437 7013
“Veteren British jazz composer leads his quintet through music of thrilling depth and great humour, featuring saxophonists Mark Hanslip (Nostalgia 77) and Martin Hathaway”
London Jazz Festival – Official website
John Peel Interview – January 1994 (?). Reprinted from interzone magazine
John Peel’s top 140 Channel 4′s, ‘John Peel’s Record Box’ Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen in their but Trad was the of it’s day (Skiffle king Lonnie Donegan was one time member of Chris Barber’s band).
Chris Barber at the London Palladium: Chris Barber (trombone), Pat Halcox (trumpet), Ian Wheeler (clarinet), Eddie Smith (banjo), Dick Smith (bass), Graham Burbridge (drums). Guest Star: Joe Harriott (alto saxophone). Recorded March 1961.