Mike Garrick: the last days
Producer and Mainstem label boss David Hays recalls pianist Mike Garrick's last gig, in Amersham
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I re-established contact with Mike Garrick after many years. I had the honour and pleasure of being bassist in his first quartet - the photo is in his autobiography. They were enriching and inspiring times. Jazz and Poetry was to follow and I had plans to turn up at the Golders Green 50th anniversary concert with Jeremy Robson. Actually my passport had expired so renewed plans were to turn up at the Berkhampstead Big Band gig at Christmas. Sadly neither of these was to be.
About ten years ago, I visited a jazz bar in Oslo where I now live - and who should come in but Shake Keane. There is a story behind this visit, but he had his flugelhorn with him. A friend took a photo. We had a chat about the 'good old days' of J&P with Joe Harriott. Sadly, this was the last photo ever taken as Shake was suddenly taken ill and died in Oslo a couple of days later.
I know how inspiring Mike's music was 50 years ago. It will continue to be and many will hope that his jazz academy will continue his ground-breaking work. Simply but profoundly, Thanks Mike. Johnny Taylor
Thanks for writing this article. Michael will be very much missed.
It was with some trepidation that I invited Michael to play at All Saints Church, Hove last September with his tribute to the famous Modern Jazz Quartet, despite being assured by Jim Hart, the vibes player in the quartet, that Michael was very approachable. Why would such a distinguished musician want to perform at a venue he had probably never heard of for less than his normal fee?!
It was typical of Michael's generosity and warmth that he immediately said "yes" and, with what I soon found was an insatiable curiosity, began asking me all about the church. He was soon talking enthusiastically about the possibility of an adapted version of Jazz Praises for All Saints!
Michael loved Englishness as the titles of some of his musical compositions illustrate: Bovingdon Poppies, Hardy Country, Green And Pleasant Land etc. He could hardly wait to set foot in our magnificent Victorian church. On the day of the concert he arrived just after three o'clock. I found him already making friends with Roger the verger and, within a few minutes, Roger had let Michael into the organ loft for a tootle on our famous Hill organ. I'm convinced that, if the other three members of the quartet hadn't arrived, he would happily have remained in the organ loft for the rest of the afternoon!
For the next two-and-a-half hours, Michael with Jim Hart, Matt Ridley and Steve Brown rehearsed the complex arrangements solidly without a break, fortified only by cups of tea that I made for them in the vestry. I sat in the church throughout this rehearsal and marvelled at their professionalism and the good-humoured banter that passed between Michael and his colleagues. The other three musicians loved him dearly and felt privileged to be working with this legend of British jazz.
Eventually, they broke to have supper at an Italian restaurant and returned to the vestry an hour later to change in good time for the concert. It was at this point that I noticed that Michael was rather out-of-breath. I got him some water and he then confessed that he suffered from angina. When I told him I had had a bypass operation a few years ago, he wanted to know all about it as he thought that he might have to have one. I encouraged him to think of it as a positive move, "a new lease of life". Sadly neither of us knew then that by the time he did go to Harefield Hospital for an operation, he would be beyond being given a new lease of life.
In the vestry, he swiftly recovered and I was delighted to find the musicians changing into smart evening suits - the same formal dress adopted by the Modern Jazz Quartet itself - for the concert. There then followed two hours of the most sublime music, punctuated by Michael's quirky humour and fund of anecdotes.
As we relaxed in the vestry afterwards, there were fond farewells and promises to return. Michael was the last to leave - he would have a two-hour drive home to Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. I saw his car out into the road; he wound down his window and called out "I've had a wonderful time, thank you so much, Peter. Please ask me to come back!" It seemed to me that I had made a new friend for life, so you can imagine my distress when I heard the news of his death. I am very grateful that I had an opportunity to share his delightful company and to get to know him.