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Tim Garland: Beyond the Frontier

By Published: November 30, 2009

AAJ: Playing and touring is something you seem to enjoy a lot.

TG: It's very sociable and humorous quite often. Sometimes if you are writing a lot, the nature of the mind is to take you in to new and wonderful territories, but there is something amazingly grounding about being up there on stage. It's so great not to have to take yourself so seriously all the time. Someone might be laying down a great groove and you might happen to be playing a pentatonic scale but that's the perfect thing that's needed [laughs].

Tim Garland Lighthouse Trio, from left: Gwilym Simcock, Asaf Sirkis, Tim Garland

Certainly I'm playing a little less right now but that's only because the concerts I am doing I feel are artistically worth saving up a little for [laughs]. I don't mind jettisoning the smaller gigs and spending a bit more time writing. I'm still doing about sixty concerts a year and I'd like to keep that going.

AAJ: At The Lighthouse Trio gig I saw in Kuala Lumpar there was a tremendous energy coming off the three of you, a tremendous musical empathy and tremendous interplay and it looked like you guys were having a lot of fun; in Asaf Sirkis and Gwilym Simcock you have two of the best instrumentalists on their respective instruments. Could you give us a little insight into their particular strengths in this trio?

TG: Certainly. With Asaf there is all of the openness of a great jazz drummer, including knowing just when to leave space for everyone else. He has great awareness of dynamics, that less-is- more thing. Sometimes he might just be using one drum on his kit but at that time it might be the grooviest thing on the planet, rather than maxing out all the time, so he's very aware of texture.

He's enormously intuitive and dedicated to the point of being sort of monastic. He's a teetotaler and yoga fanatic and he's wonderful to tour with because he keeps everyone grounded, and he laughs lot. He's also very good at rehearsing so he's a wonderful professional. He's also running his own bands so I've got to make sure I book him in enough time [Iaughs]. He's a busy guy.

I think also his openness to including his own cultural roots within the music, like the frame drums and certain Middle Eastern rhythms. It's like I was saying, use the maximum potential of the people around you. Asaf is not grafting on anything when I ask him to do a Middle Eastern rhythm —you can feel it coming out of his bones. I think "My god! Let's write something using that!"

I love that openness. There are other musicians who come from different backgrounds but they don't want to revisit their roots; they're hooked on Philly Joe Jones

Philly Joe Jones
Philly Joe Jones
1923 - 1985
and that's cool too, but I love to use people who want to use all of themselves and make you feel all of their personal history thrown into the music. I'm so glad Asaf chose to live in the UK.

With Gwilym, he's a bit more similar to me in a way because we're both been brought up with a lot of classical music. I've known Gwilym very closely for about eight years so I've been able to introduce him to a lot of contemporary music. I first met him when I was teaching at the Royal Academy because he was my student for the first six months or so. I love his openness to music outside of jazz and this is pretty crucial when you're using aspects of flamenco or Middle Eastern music.

Apart from an enormous knowledge of contemporary harmony his time is brilliant. It's very rhythmic. You were picking up on the energy there and we love to play things which are extremely rhythmic. We're not playing museum-type harmonies—every note has a great placement.

I've been very spoiled; the three piano players I've worked with most over the last decade or so have been him, Chick Corea

Chick Corea
Chick Corea
and Geoff Keezer [laughs]. So my expectations, particularly when it comes to things like time... you know, Chick's time is immense and I learn every time I play with him, as most people around him do I think [laughs].

AAJ: You seem to thrive most in a trio format.

TG: . I love trios—there's no hiding place [laughs]. When you've got people who've got compositional minds then there's so much space for them; they can really embellish the composition and make it their own. If you've got people with a facility like Joe Locke

Joe Locke
Joe Locke
and Geoff Keezer from Storms/Nocturne, or this trio, then it's so exciting to watch.

It's actually almost a plus to take something away, like the bass or the drums. For example in The Lighthouse Trio we all take it in turns to fulfill the function of the bassist, in the same way that in Storms/Nocturne we're all the percussionist as well. We're all the drummer. It makes maximum use of our musicality and I think because we are so engaged in the music making that there's a certain sort of intensity at the gigs. People can tell how engaged you have to be to make this music work. I do love the trio.

AAJ: Is it true that Gwilym is leaving The Lighthouse Trio?

Tim GarlandTG: Yeah, he's more or less taken off on his own. He's got a publishing deal which sort of demands that he honor that by when he does appear it's doing his own music. We've worked up an enormous rapport so it's sad for me but I just want him to do the best he can. I'm a big fan of him. I've seen him right through from when he was a student but it's time to let him fly. In his case he's really ready for it.

I've got some exciting plans for next year. It'll probably be called The Lighthouse Project because it's likely to be four people initially. I've been looking into using some astounding flamenco guitarists who are rhythmically bang-on it but also they have wonderful sense of harmony. It would be wrong of me to give any names as I'm kind of doing these semi-auditions. The Spanish flavor of some of the music is definitely going to be retained; most reviewers have noted it's a bit of a Chick Corea influence and they're probably right, after all those years of playing Spanish music in three and six.

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