The relationship between celebrity and credibility is not always straightforward in jazz. Chick Corea is one of a handful of artists who can make an unassailable claim to both, and Tim Garland’s long association with the maestro has made him into one of a handful of UK artists to enjoy a comparable level of international recognition. He’s chosen this Brighton gig to showcase a new project and premiere some material from his brand new album One – striking out from his recent adventures in symphonic composition or the all-acoustic subtlety of the Lighthouse Trio towards a return to the muscular jazz-rock fusion that informed his youth.
He’s assembled an intriguingly matched band – Asaf Sirkis on drums is a long-time collaborator, Ant Law is an emerging talent on guitar, and nattily be-hatted keyboardist Jason Rebello is a fellow international star thanks to his long tenure with Sting. They are immediately put through their paces in opener ‘Yes To This’ – featuring Corea’s signature mix of furiously complex unison arrangements and infectiously uplifting latin rhythms, it’s at once challenging and accessible. Rebello’s electric piano solo, extraordinarily fluid over the unpredictable changes, shows just what we’ve been missing during his recent absence from the UK scene. Elsewhere, ‘Sama’i For Peace’ combines a middle eastern rhythmic pattern, with Law’s ostinato on 8-string guitar filling out the bass, as a starting point for incendiary solos from Rebello, Garland and Sirkis that capture all the power, flash and confidence of the classic fusion era. The band don’t miss a beat on the complex structure, played live for the first time ever tonight. ‘Songs to the North Sky’ is rooted in Garland’s love of the North country landscape, and the structure of his solo lines recall Garbarek’s Nordic lyricism, with Sirkis adding wonderful colours from his expanded kit. It’s a highly sophisticated, idiosyncratic but very accessible sound, though Rebello’s beautiful solo interlude is rather compromised by a harsh digital piano. ‘Foretold’, dedicated to John McLaughlin, gives everyone a chance to bust out their effects boards in a true fusion odyssey, with Sirkis tearing up the polyrhythms.
Garland is a confident host with a touch of the elder-statesman rock star about him, an impression reinforced by the weighty appellations given to the compositions: ‘The Eternal Greeting’ uses 12-string guitar and clay drum to create the kind of exotic textures pioneered by Oregon, and ‘The Colours of Light’ features Rebello in full Jan Hammer mode with some tasty Moog-synth work. A high energy rendition of Corea’s classic ‘Windows’ gives Garland a chance to show off his flawless post-Brecker chops, with dazzlingly creative support from Sirkis, and set closer ‘Prototype’ features Ant Law finally unleashing his mathematical guitar genius in a stunningly original solo across all eight strings. There’s a palpable sense of mutual appreciation and fun onstage underscoring the awesome levels of technical accomplishment, and an appealing mix of swagger, sincerity and the slight preposterousness that characterised the giants of 1970s fusion, to whom this is an affectionate tribute.
– Eddie Myer
– Photos by David Forman