Review: Michael Garrick Tribute at LJF 2012

Bob Weir listens in on a moving musical tribute to the late British pianist and composer that celebrated his five decades of music-making

Gabriel GarrickMichael Garrick, the most amiable of musicians, has been much missed by colleagues and fans alike since he died last year. It was highly appropriate, therefore, for his sons Chris (vn) and Gabriel (t) to assemble a hand-picked band of veterans (Art Themen (ss, ts) & Dave Green (b)) and younger generation players (Jim Hart (vib), Barry Green (p), Matt Ridley (b) (alternating with Dave) & Steve Brown (d)) to honour Michael's important and original music making over five decades. He may have been under-appreciated sometimes but it is heartening that he was busy in his last few years with new records and the reissue of several of his finest albums.
An hour was far too short a time to even begin to encompass all aspects of Michael's wide-ranging and prolific output, so there was a sensible concentration on his more intimate musical interests, reflecting his talents as composer, lyricist and open-minded experimenter.

The band started with three of Michael's most impressive originals - Carolling, Black Marigolds and Amethyst - all lovely tunes and indicative of his successful deployment of odd metre and form. Jacqui Dankworth then guested on Flower Of Sorrow and The Heart Is A Lotus, singing Michael's literate lyrics with heartrending tenderness. We were then reminded of Michael's key role in devising the UK's jazz-and-poetry movement when poet Jeremy Robson recited Cascade, Handle With Care and Some Of These Days. The latter was firstly sung by Jacqui and then extended wittily by Jeremy with verses in memory of his mother.

The rhythm section played Lady Of The Orion Wood, a number used by Michael's first and last groups, recalling his staunch (if unfashionable) interest in the MJQ. Jim Hart was startlingly inventive on this one. The full band plus Jacqui had a blow on the rousing Home Stretch Blues before they all returned to the stage after prolonged acclamation to finish with Webster's Mood. Jacqui sang Michael's sincere words beautifully whilst Art and Dave evoked Ben and Jimmy Blanton in a haze of Ellingtonia that Michael would have loved.

Photo: Gabriel Garrick by John Watson

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