JJ 03/73: Michael Garrick – Home Stretch Blues

Fifty years ago, amidst much admirable playing, Art Napoleon saw Garrick succumb to the temptation embodied in the LP to be long-winded. First published in JJ March 1973

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Of all music’s disciplines, economy is perhaps the most difficult in the learn­ing and valued in the application. Only too easy for a fledgling jazzman of en­thusiasm and imagination to obscure his gifts through clutter or long-windedness. Early recorded jazz had few such wor­ries; the three-minute tyranny was its own guarantor both of brevity and, resultantly, of a kind of précis thinking which made virtually every note count. Sixteen bars of Prez or eight of Bix told the tale.

Such restraints are now far behind us. The people who play and write jazz nowadays can think in terms of larger structure, greater depth and develop­ment space. But greater scope brings greater responsibility; the discipline is no longer externally imposed, and un­limited space implies temptation to fill it, whether or not the material at hand is readily expandable.

Where Michael Garrick used breadth to magnificent effect with Mr. Smith’s Apocalypse, his latest offering appears to succumb to the lure of the wide open spaces. But not without moments of brilliance. Home Stretch Blues, the opener, is ironically cast and impec­cably played; it only falters through re­capitulation of a long and involved exposition which could have been teles­coped.

Epiphany, nearly as good, gives Henry Lowther some well-used violin solo space. His brass work, normally the most rewarding feature of records on which it appears, inclines a bit here to what an earlier generation liked to call ‘noodling” – long on technique, short on coherence.

Fire Opal And Blue Poppies doesn’t quite work. It’s full of appealing vignettes – perhaps in that sense the ‘sequence of visions’ idea is appropriate – but suffers from aimlessness and lack of compositional unity. As it rambles along there are good moments from Garrick on harpsichord and a sensitive Dave Green bass solo. Miss Winstone, as ever, is a wonder: so true is her ear and acute her musicianship that she inte­grates perfectly as an ensemble voice, carrying equal weight beside the trum­pet and reeds.

Points to Garrick for witty presenta­tion in sleeve notes and cover photo, and to Don Rendell for some supremely coherent tenor work on his two tracks.

A mixed blessing, this. Not a major work; but for admirers of Garrick and his genre, or the other individual musicians – or even Alfred Lord Tennyson – it is something worth hearing.

Discography
(a) Home Stretch Blues; Sweet And Low; (a) Epiphany (24¾ min) – (b) Fire Opal And Blue Poppies; (b) (A Sequence Of Visions) (23 min)
(a) Norma Winstone (vcl): Michael Garrick (pno/harpsichord); Trevor Tomkins (dm); Dave Green (bs); Art Themen (ss/dt/ts); Don Rendell (ts); Henry Lowther (tpt/vln). London, 7/4/72. (b)  as (a), but Rendell out. same date.
(Argo ZDA154 £2.25)