The adventurous two-disc Libra features saxophonist Tim Garland heavily entrenched in trio territory. He is joined by rising star Gwilym Simcock on piano and versatile percussionist Asaf Sirkis, with guest appearances from zany guitarist Paul Bollenback and London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Expansive, well-structured pieces are the record's mainstay, with a tasteful sprinkling of standards. Known for sideman work with names including Chick Corea, Joe Locke, Bill Bruford, and many of the UK's finest, Garland here speaks an advanced compositional language to match his fiery presence on saxophones and bass clarinet. As in any group of this nature, the Lighthouse Trio emphasizes personal interaction and mutual exposition, and the intense, flourishing nature of these musical relationships is arguably as important a feature as Garland's writing.
"Frontier," a four-part suite dedicated to Gunther Schuller, incorporates classical influences: the first segment, "SunGod," is a grandiose orchestral introduction sans jazz. Clear lunar connections can be made to Holst's masterpiece, The Planets (1918). Attention shifts in seamless waves between trio and orchestra, with the full ensemble often ebbing and flowing behind solos or suddenly jumping in to punctuate breaks and gaps. The piece runs organically without sounding mechanical, before abruptly ending in the blink of an eye. There's almost not enough time for the mind to process, but here lies the simple beauty of recorded music.
The second CD opens with a live version of "Blue In Green," pleasantly presented without a steady pulse. A couple of steamy Latin numbers evoke the spirit of Corea, particularly "Bajo Del Sol," with its tour de force piano solo climaxing in loud, crashing sheets of rippling chordal deviance. Kenny Wheeler's "Sly Eyes" is playful and adventurous: Simcock's stompy vamp underpins a deft, loping sax melody before another sudden ending via Sirkis' agile brushwork. All three are burning on the penultimate track, "Break In The Weather," as Garland skips and darts and a fierce battle of rhythmic ideas takes place between piano and drums.
Libra is a striking achievement by three leading talents on the contemporary British scene, successfully balancing the intricacies of large ensemble writing with a deep sense of openness and reciprocal understanding.
CD1 (Sun): The Eyes Of Ages; Hang Loose; Arabesque For Three; Frontier: SunGod, MoonGod, On SunGod, Libra; Old Man Winter. CD2 (Moon): Blue In Green; Bajo Del Sol; Darkhouse; Sly Eyes; Black Elk; Break In The Weather; Nostalgia In Times Square.
Tim Garland: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, bass flute; Gwilym Simcock: piano; Asaf Sirkis: percussion set, hang drum, udu, frame drums; Paul Bollenback: guitar (CD1#2, 5, CD2#7 ); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Tim Garland (CD1#4); Sacconi Strings (CD2#3).
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