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Interviews

Tim Garland: Beyond the Frontier

By Published: November 30, 2009

AAJ: There are certainly a lot of great musicians in Spain.

TG: Yeah, the sense of time is awesome and it's just finding people with the openness who don't just play lip service to jazz.

AAJ: There are a lot of Spanish jazz musicians of that kind of mindset: Jorge Pardo; Carles Benavent

Carles Benavent
Carles Benavent
b.1954
bass, electric
= 12828; Javier Collina; Chano Dominguez
Chano Dominguez
Chano Dominguez
b.1960
piano
, Llibert Fortuny, Perico Sambeat
Perico Sambeat
Perico Sambeat
b.1962
saxophone
...

Tim Garland Acoustic Triangle, from left: Tim Garland, Gwilym Simcock, Malcolm Creese

TG: Yeah, Perico. When you think about it, interestingly, one of the earliest quotations is from Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton
1890 - 1941
piano
from god knows when, 1910 or something, who said: "It just ain't jazz without that Spanish tinge." He was, I think, talking about the Habanera rhythm which ragtime has all the way through it. But isn't it interesting that things ain't changed that much [laughs].

Of course it's got to have a lot of African influence in there somewhere. You can't really talk about jazz for too long without getting into that; great truths really.

AAJ: One of the great things about Bill Bruford

Bill Bruford
Bill Bruford
b.1949
drums
's Earthworks was that it wasn't an easy music to define; it had lots of different influences in it and it was a really tremendous band that way. Do you have a tinge of regret that Earthworks has come to an end?

TG: Well, it was fun but I remember being on the road with Bill and he was kind of making noises that he wasn't sure if he'd be doing it this time next year. It was easy for me to see its premature demise, but of course I'd only been in the band for about four or five years and it had been running for about twenty three. When you read Bill's book it's all made very clear there—that guy had done a lot.

It was enormous fun but at the same time in the same way that Gwilym is ready to shoot off and be a band leader, you know, I was too [laughs]. It was a natural thing and I think Bill felt that about me in the same way I feel about Gwilym.

AAJ: You have a new recording out of the music of Bach, Stravinsky and a couple of you own compositions; can you tell us something about this recording?

TG: Yeah. I had heard a soprano saxophonist in Austria a few years ago playing a Bach oboe concerto and I thought "I want to do that!" Nearly all of them that he wrote fit the range of the soprano sax wonderfully. Every note in Bach is famous [laughs] and so it's the most demanding music that I've played in a way because you're used to doing your own thing and inflecting things your own way in jazz. This is very, very precious and it has to occupy a different space in your musical mind.

I did a D minor and another one in C which is very famous, and that's really a duet which is nice because you hear the violin and the saxophone kind of sparring off each other. I'm particularly proud of the way that it came out because the way I'm playing the saxophone, deliberately, it sounds a bit like a baroque trumpet. I used a slightly different mouthpiece and the sound has brassiness, a kind of preciseness which sounds a little bit less jazzy.

When I was doing my research the oboe players were taking more risks and developing the music more than I did which was interesting for me to see. I was throwing in little ornaments but these oboists really take it out, and that is the tradition of the music. It might not be full on improvisation in the Coltrane sense but it is extemporizing with a capital E.

We were really keen to use "Dumbarton Oaks "of Stravinsky which is a very kind of post-classical, cut and dried. Some people find it too unromantic. Rhythmically it's almost rigid I guess but it represents a fantastic joining together of influences from classical and jazz and so that is our lynchpin piece for the album, to show how these things can join together.

AAJ: Bach wrote, certainly some of his music, with no particular instrumentation in mind so it's kind of fitting that you should throw a soprano sax at his music and I'm sure he would have approved.

Tim GarlandTG: There we go, and I think most people understand that when they come to review it or cast judgment upon what we've done. It's well known that he wrote a lot of these things through the harpsichord because he could play them himself. Then someone came along with an oboe, a sackbut [laughs], or more often a violin and he would say "Yeah, I've got something for you" and he would jot it out. One reason why we know this was the case was that when you look back some of the music was quite sketchy as if he was perhaps writing it for himself. He didn't need to write it out in full because he knew it.

A working musician, churning stuff out for people, making constant adaptations to things, working on the fly, making things up as he goes along—all of this sounds very modern but that was the world of Bach. I love the fact that we are making this connection though I'm at pains to say we are not he first to do that by any means. The one thing which I can offer is the piece of my own which is "Homage to father Bach" which is very much inspired by the things I've learnt from him., with a greater amount of improvisation where the soloists really can fly off and do their own thing, and that I don't think I've ever heard anyone do before.

This was a wonderful opportunity to try, and I think it was during the writing of that that I felt closest to the spirit of Bach. I felt that if his spirit was floating around there somewhere I really did want to ask for his permission, and I kind of felt in my bones "Yeah, I think he would like this." That feeling of joining hands across several centuries was very profound for me.



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