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Tim Garland: Beyond the Frontier

By Published: November 30, 2009

Tim GarlandAAJ: The forces of nature seem to be reflected in many of your compositions and album titles.

TG: It's true, when I look at the amount of things I've written about the sea [laughs], it's a real recurrent theme. I think it's a desire to link with forces bigger than yourself. There's a spiritual quest in there somewhere, without wishing to sound too lofty, to try and align myself with something pre-industrial in a very post-industrial age.

I'm hardly alone in this, I mean, the whole ECM catalogue can speak to you in a similar way. If you listen to Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
, you can hear that his music comes from a completely urban environment , but for many years now, decades, jazz has also aspired to be more than just a celebration of big cities, to be rural, or pertaining to other areas of existence and I guess my music does quite often fall in that bracket.

AAJ: How much of a challenge was it for the members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to adopt your arrangements, and particularly the ten-beat Middle Eastern, Egyptian Samai rhythm?

TG: I don't think these orchestras find these things particularly difficult if they are clearly written out. What I had to do in this case was that I had a film session and I brought back some of the parts that I conducted with the orchestra. I then added the three soloists later and grafted ourselves on, and so I was able to record in chunks. It's true that for a performance version of this you'd need a bit more rehearsal time to make sure that people really were comfortable with these rhythms.

Increasingly, the RPO do a lot of film sessions and music of a hybrid nature and so they are quicker and quicker all the time. Time is really on our side as the orchestras get more youthful and they're used to a kind of eclecticism. You find with the London orchestras that it's amazing the speed with which they can get these things together. I was lucky, as the RPO are brilliant at that.

AAJ: Have you premiered the music with an orchestra, and if not is it an ambition?

TG: It's certainly an ambition. I've done various other works with a number of orchestras but I've yet to work live with the RPO and it's been something which we've been thinking about. The biggest platform in the UK is the London Jazz Festival but that's run by the organization Sirius, and I'm not on their books. I don't get published by them and they prefer to feature people who they publish. So once again I am not asked to play at the London Jazz Festival [laughs].

It leaves me that I have to be a bit inventive because putting something like this together would involve a certain amount of sponsorship. There are plans next year to work with a couple of other orchestras and the guy who runs the RPO is very keen to do this as well I'm hoping it will happen. It will happen [laughs].

One of the things that I did when we were on tour was make a connection with quite a few other orchestras, several of which were really keen. It excites me so much to think that I can continue to be involved in this are of music which is one of the most exciting areas that there can be.

AAJ: Do you fully agree with Schuller's thoughts on the possibilities of integrating large ensemble with improvisation, what he referred to years ago as the Third Stream?

TG: The term Third Stream is somewhat out of date in the sense that it was really only looking at African music as the Second Stream, and the Third Stream was bringing the Afro-American experience together. I'm not an authority on this but that's how I understand it.

But that doesn't really allow for the multitude of different ethnicities that come into play. I can understand that this thought was a product of the forties and fifties, the world in which Günther Schuller lived. There's a piece of Schuller's from the early sixties, Journeys into Jazz (1962), I think it is, and he's using atonality and swing and for that time it's pretty amazing. You can certainly hear a lot of influence in [Leonard] Bernstein

Tim GarlandI feel that we reaching a point where there is so much respect from both sides. Soloists aren't just limited to suddenly branching out into bebop licks which don't go with the language of the orchestra, but open soloists now are improvising musicians able to respond to the language presented to them by the orchestra.

Great jazz pianists like Geoffrey Keezer

Geoffrey Keezer
Geoffrey Keezer
do take a lot of their influences from outside of jazz, so if the music that the orchestra is playing essentially sounds like post modern, not avant-garde especially, but contemporary music, then you're not going to get someone like Keezer burning Bud Powell
Bud Powell
Bud Powell
1924 - 1966
over the top. You're going to hear something which is truly integrated, and that is absolutely wonderful because then it's not just about a jazz history lesson, it's really just about improvised music. Whether we even use the word jazz or not is not essential, it's a live music which is going to be a bit different every time it's played.

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