Vimala Rowe, John Etheridge, Out of the Sky, Dyad

From 2016. The words ‘Blue’ and ‘breeze’, a long exhalation, a mood instantly captured, the bluesy moan of voice and hum of guitar. Out of the Sky is an album of nine tracks that frames stark themes, originals and arranged treatments of traditional …

Published: 1 Dec 2019. Updated: 24 months.

From 2016. The words ‘Blue’ and ‘breeze’, a long exhalation, a mood instantly captured, the bluesy moan of voice and hum of guitar.

Out of the Sky is an album of nine tracks that frames stark themes, originals and arranged treatments of traditional African music and jazz standards as a unity. A cinematic version of an Aramaic prayer draws together the ancient culture and modern sufferings of Syria and a harrowing version of Ellington’s ‘Solitude’ are tracks for replaying most.

Largely duets (the double bass of Dudley Phillips pops up on two tracks) the wiry sometimes desert-distant Ry Cooder-like earthy quality of the veteran Soft Machine guitarist is a calm held in reserve, a landmark sound that the heart-on-sleeve carefully calibrated passion of Rowe leans in to.

The singer, who can swoop to gather up meaningful undertones, manipulating the silences, or reach high to scrape off glassy accented shards raw with expressive powerful resource, and Etheridge from their first meeting walking on Hampstead Heath have clearly bonded on this persuasive studio album recorded last summer, the majestic stillness the pair create on a moving appropriately angelic version of Kenyan singer Fadhili William’s ‘Malaika’ famously covered by Miriam Makeba where Rowe inescapably and elsewhere on the album is reminiscent of Sibongile Khumalo and she stands comparison with the best role models, remarkably complete for such a relative newcomer. Jazz singer discovery of 2016 so far? You bet.

The album moves to a vintage climax with the more familiar Bird belovèd ‘Dark Shadows’, and a version of ‘Detour Ahead’ a song that goes back to Woody Herman days (there is also a fine early version of the song by cult favourite Jackie Paris on YouTube), the only new coordinates required simply ones that involve a journey of the imagination.

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Tim Garland with the Weather Walker trio, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London

From June 2018. At the Edition festival this was an unusual lunchtime opportunity to hear the ex-Chick Corea saxophonist Tim Garland along with Jason Rebello (formerly with Sting and Jeff Beck) and the distinguished jazz and classical Russian double …

Published: 1 Dec 2019. Updated: 2 years.

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From June 2018. At the Edition festival this was an unusual lunchtime opportunity to hear the ex-Chick Corea saxophonist Tim Garland along with Jason Rebello (formerly with Sting and Jeff Beck) and the distinguished jazz and classical Russian double bassist Yuri Goloubev (Gwilym Simcock).

The trio date chimed with the release of landmark release Weather Walker and took place during the Edition label’s 10th anniversary festival. The album also features a large string section and star German pianist Pablo Held who was also appearing at the club later in the day, the album recorded in Studios 1 and 3 of Abbey Road. “Movie magic (but not as we know it!),” Garland has described it.

Full of interest imbued as it is with an English sense of melancholy and the blue sky of the endless horizons of contemporary jazz inspired by the English Cumbrian lake district and the intricacies of Garland’s compositional and arranging skill heard for instance earlier in his career on The New Crystal Silence, the title track of the new album was kept to last tucked in right at the end of the second set – and what a gloriously dark mood it conveys certainly one full of thought provoking reflection.

Earlier we also heard a fine composition by Jason Rebello called ‘Pearl’ featured on the pianist’s 2016 album Held but for me it was ‘Black Elk’ from Garland’s orchestral record Libra that was the pick of the concert.

Garland chose a variety of reeds instruments, soprano sax most significantly. His bass clarinet playing (“the random note generator” as he referred to the instrument jestingly) was colourful. Judicious use of electronics were fed into the sound for extra space during the set and his tenor playing was magisterial.

Rebello was on fine optimistic form, and his style now is certainly his own. His main influences of notably Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter have long since been assimilated and distilled into a driving style where harmonic accompaniment is lifted into solo space and you cannot see where the seams are.

Goloubev I suppose stole the show in a way without grandstanding. He was at the heart of the trio sound in several ways. Garland mentioned his arco capabilities borne from the double bassist’s classical orchestral background in Moscow and his musicianship is unerringly used in the service of the beauty of the music.

I first heard Garland in the 1990s when he played in the folk jazz group Lammas which featured the acclaimed poet Don Paterson who played guitar and singer Christine Tobin. The folk side of Garland’s writing has not left him and I suppose makes his music English in certain nuanced ways and adds to his specific compositional profile. Garland is also able to share the pulse across the trio and allows space for each of the instruments to contribute without distracting at all.

The set drew on the contrapuntal chamber jazz of Acoustic Triangle a little too. A tender gig full of character by three masters at work and play. (Text + pic: Stephen Graham)

Tim Garland among family and friends above at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, London.