Gabrial Garrick Big Band At The Gunnersbury Tavern, London – 20 July 2014


The Gabriel Garrick Big Band swung by the Gunnersbury Tavern last Sunday as the South West London pub continues its commitment to hosting the best of British big band jazz. A stellar line up of musicians presented a mixture of hard swinging classics while honouring the visionary compositions of the late Michael Garrick. Kicking off with the latter’s ‘Amethyst’, as heard on the pianist’s Inspirations album - saxophonist Martin Hathaway (who was both on the original recording in 2007 and the performance last Sunday) took the opening melody on soprano, of which showcased his sensitivity, technical control; and in turn demanded the attention of listeners that was to be effortlessly sustained for the rest of the afternoon.


A drummer-less first set enabled different “sonic possibilities,” as Garrick called them, to be explored and appreciated by the band and audience respectively. Highlights that displayed this rare dynamic within a big band included piano solos from Will Bartlett accompanied by Spencer Brown on bass. Steeped in the jazz tradition, Bartlett’s playing also possessed emotionally rich phrasing, underpinned by Brown’s masterful touch and sense of time - greatly reminiscent of another ‘Brown’ of the bass and the foundation to the Oscar Peterson Trio. Ensemble sections also took on a different, almost novel, quality and resulted in a refined texture and purified sound.


Garrick took a much anticipated and affectionately applauded solo on ‘Boogie Blues’ that provided an opportunity for the trumpeter to display his absolute oneness with the vocabulary of the composition’s era; maintaining a rich and characterful tone in even the highest registers. Between numbers Garrick discussed some of his philosophies on music – suggesting an over emphasis upon “sheets of (manuscript) paper”, that within jazz somewhat contradict the nature of improvisation; this was commended by the audience. The complete ease that the leader and his musicians had with the music was exemplified throughout, such as the way Garrick would often seem to give Hathaway the go-ahead to compose a short accompanying-backing phrase, for which Hathaway would then play once and upon repeat the entire saxophone section had instinctively harmonised and placed with groove and cohesion under the soloist at the time. Such natural charisma and fluidity was greatly refreshing.


As well as a flugel solo from Garrick, tenorist Sam Walker soloed upon the title track to the 1964 debut album from Michael Garrick ‘October Woman’ with much command and innovation. On top of a rhythm section already suggesting a double time feel, Walker further implied the doubling of that pulse by straightening the rhythm of his lines - giving a great sense of forward motion and displaying Walker’s ability to articulate at a rapid rate of notes. Interestingly, while many of the band’s players had worked with Michael Garrick, this almost entirely new generation of musicians served for an intriguing interpretation of “papa” Garrick’s still contemporary sounding and undoubtedly relevant music. Humour, politics, audience heckling, drumstick throwing and an overriding sense of swing were all present in what was a typically Garrick billed event and one that once again suggested the trumpeter to be one of the most truly underrated, communicative and distinctive improvisers of the UK today.

Tom Wright

For more info go to and