…”DO IT!”

Dates had been booked, with Norma Winstone and Kit Downes due to come over to my studio mid November. Then a second lockdown was announced, and Norma was soon to reply to my panic message “Lets DO IT!”.

So within twenty-four hours they were here, initiating the first of what I hope will turn out to be a series of “Encounters At Oak Gable Studio”.

Plans to hone a set with a song of mine and some other new material were put to one side, as the necessity of creating something on the spot took over.

Keeping the format to trios, distancing is no problem.  We had no monitors, no headphones, and agreed there’d be no overdubs. This would be a concert, it’s just that the audience were yet to arrive.

What resulted was more moving than I could have imagined; melodies that I have known for thirty years or more, were now being sung a few steps away directly to me or so it felt, with that quiet authority that Norma possesses. 

It felt like doing “In Tune” that radio 3 live music slot where you and Sean Rafferty are stuck in a basement, no audience in sight, yet mysteriously the world is dialling in.

Kit is a fantastic accompanist and followed Norma’s delicate phrasing as if they’d just been on tour together. It is also worth mentioning the loving debt we owe John Taylor, whose influence runs so deep in many of us, whether we be pianists or composers.

After feeling so starved of ensemble playing, this quickly assembled date was a deep joy, and perhaps had an added sense of renewed love for the ability to truly create together.  Our choice of well loved tunes only seemed to add to this emotional gravity in the studio that afternoon.

Another swiftly arranged pre-lockdown session happened the next day when Kit returned, this time with Rob Luft. His stereo soundscapes helped create a particularly nocturnal set suitable for the Christmas holiday performance slot that it’s being planned for.

Even more evident in this session, was the fact that this is an Encounter, rather than a Band: People with similar sensibilities, putting themselves on the line and relishing the freshness of committing something to record, in some cases never having played it before.

Several more sessions are planned. All being well there will be “Spring Encounters” and the other seasons will follow.  My heartfelt hope is that they all will embody the same passion,  interconnectedness and, well, love, that these first two have.

The ability to finesse the audio, and of course to have the whole thing beautifully filmed, means these online concerts are not live, but the plan is to follow the 45 min concert with a live Q&A , where you can shoot over your questions to those you’ve just seen and heard bare their souls, and they can talk right back to you from their boudoirs via Zoom! 

My son Joe Garland is a big part of the tech success of this, having already created the new-look www.timgarland.com site. Check it out.

Please take a look as there are quite a few videos, audio clips of what I get up to at Oak Gable Studio, Masterchord, and Abbey Road, and importantly, details of performance dates and ticket info.

Take a look at this short video

Winter Encounter no.1

Tim is joined by Norma Winstone and Kit Downes

The “Third Hour Of The Third Day” – rule

If we are lucky enough, life may have given us an opportunity to use some newfound time to develop our musicality, and I believe the way to deepen this is to develop our power of concentration. That part of us that seeks purposefulness and satisfaction through creating, is often frustrated and malnourished. This isn’t always because of lack of time in which to attune ourselves to a creative headspace- it is often because we remain underdeveloped in our staying power when there IS an opportunity.

It’s quite possible we are too hard on ourselves when improvement is not quickly apparent, and we may only rarely sink deep enough into the music to have a proper “delve” or experience any authentic union with the instrument. We are ALL busy people!

If you are in a situation where that extra time with an instrument might become possible, and you want to ENJOY it, try my “Third Hour Of The Third Day” rule:

Don’t expect any particular improvement until the third consecutive day of practise, and not until the third hour.

So you have committed to three hours a day for three days. That’s the stuff of full time college students and not older folks with mortgages and kids, right? Well, try and fashion a challenge as close to this as you can, the important part being that you are playing for a good deal of time WITHOUT any expectation of improvement. You are just playing, “playing” like a child plays.

Eventually get your phone out and record yourself maybe, a little bit of self created tension. You may cringe a bit at hearing yourself if you’re not used to it, but you’ll no doubt appreciate SOME improvement, so make sure to heartily enjoy and acknowledge the feelings and don’t dwell on the criticism. Involve the whole body, in my case as a blower of a fairly large instrument I need to keep up a good energy, but not so it is strained. I don’t expect very much when I first start out and am just grateful for the time alone with the instrument, actually it is almost a “self-compassion” where non-judgment presides. My time now, I tell myself, is to connect with the highest part of myself and all worldly problems for this time, have to be put aside. You could even say that for this time, you are not “of the world” anyway, perhaps you are “of the earth”. As such you do not need Facebook or chocolate or whatever, you just need concentration in the task at hand.

A couple of days ago I realised I needed to record a solo on a new album. The challenge I set myself was to be content with a recorded solo that had absolutely no editing in it, as if it were a live gig. The piece “Ambleside Nights” is pretty tricky actually. At the beginning of the third day I filmed a couple of the solos and I’ve made one available online, just for your interest.

I like the fact that I was able to surprise myself a couple of times in the solo, as well as follow a fragment of melody which helped glue it together. I also liked the fact that although I wasn’t able to interact with the live band the way I really like to (in the same room at the same time!) nothing jars. Plenty of things I’d played up til then seemed so sporadic and un-flowing, I REALLY had to employ some compassionate non-judgement.

Improvisation is the endless art of perfecting imperfection. If you can’t practise without both concentration and a playful, patient mind, you might not enjoy it, and right now an extra few hours might be the gift something in you is longing for. Let’s ensure that music remains a source of joy for us, and that the rewards of truly applying yourself are not all at the end of a rainbow but can be in the journey itself, an enriching of life when the troubled mind can take a back seat and music can do the driving.

“There’s nothing quite like Tim Garland’s music…Everything fits with such perfection…His soundscapes certainly present us with atmospheres and images subtler than any picture…..some superb jazz soloists, notably Garland himself”
Dave Gelly THE GUARDIAN 4 STARS

“..it’s clear that this is no ordinary chamber jazz….Taking his inspiration from the scenic magic of England’s Lake District, saxophonist and composer Tim Garland has translated the natural beauty of the landscape into an equally breathtaking suite”.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ 5 STARS

“A mini-masterpiece” EVENING STANDARD

‘impressively cinematic soundscape….
The wide-ranging score draws on modernist dissonance and adds folk balladry and the slow-burns of fusion jazz.’
4 STARS FINANCIAL TIMES

“A gorgeous and vivid sense of place” Jazz FM

Try thinking of the music you listen to in one of two ways:
Either the experience will be primarily a journey, or primarily a place.
Music that relies on a strong sense of narrative, would be the former type.
Turn on a recording  half way through, if it is a piece that relies heavily upon narrative you’ll potentially feel the lack of something, just as you would if you were to start a film half an hour in.
The narrative content of a piece of music demands our attention, it relies on us engaging with the linear story being told. 
Whether it be the structure of a Beethoven sonata, a (seemingly)  less structured Coltrane solo (from a later album) or the unfolding of the slow movement of the Ravel piano concerto, you can appreciate the momentum and engagement of great narrative music. Likewise a great improvisation over a standard tune; to really hear just how the soloist is manipulating and superimposing over the tune’s structure, it helps to have heard that tune, its exposition, and to have enough attention invested in what’s going on to remember some of its contours.
Music as a place:
To write music as a place is to meditate upon a picture in one’s mind, or to use an actual photo perhaps, and somehow distil the essence, or emotional “meta-data” that resonates within you as you translate your feelings to music.
It cannot actually be static as it is still, of course, in time,  but It is a gradual deepening or focussing of the emotion, that represents the development of the piece, even if it is characterised by a lot of repetition.
Listen to Steve Reich’s Desert Music, or one of the very vampy recordings by Keith Jarrett, including his best selling Köln Concert. From early plainchant to Louis Andriesson and his “De Tijd” (“Time”), any music which summons a sense of place, over it’s sense of journey, can be appreciated as deeply immersive.
It is also more possible to listen in on a piece like this after it has started. Often the emphasis on texture, production or repetition will be so prominent, as to pull you right in from whatever point you start to listen.
These examples are a starting point only, but it is worth pointing out that the influence of movie music has had a greater impact upon our appreciation of place music, and has not done so much for our ability to get engrossed in longer, through-developed music, whatever its genre.
I have long been totally in love with “modern” harmony, which I sometimes refer to as The Beauty In The Dissonance. Music with a lot of harmony or active foreground melodic lines, really does require your foreground attention and a certain amount of willingness for the twists and turns of the genre to become familiar. There is no singular place this music is describing, it is more a journey between places. It doesn’t make good background music,  and can be difficult to appreciate without putting your phone down for the whole duration, counting out millions of potential listeners so it would seem.
I am not saying  that music-as-a-place is in any way inferior. These two approaches are, more truthfully,  entirely intertwined. I am only criticising an unwillingness to develop attention, and that goes far beyond the subject of music. 
Check out Arvo Pärt’s “Cantus In Memorium Benjamin Britten”, this summons an amazing sense of place. It is not concerned with the journey as I’ve been defining itbut it most certainly deserves one’s whole-hearted, sustained attention.
The Place v. Journey approach has been on my mind a lot as I am on the eve of releasing my new album Weather Walker, which blends these two approaches in equal measure more than anything I’ve tried before.

Weather Walker, produced by Audio Network, licensed by Edition

I am incredibly proud to have had the opportunity during this project to record the English Session Orchestra string section in studio one at Abbey Road, plus eight soloists in studio 3, to create my own series of “pictures” of the Lake District. 
It is within these places, that the narrative element is added by the magic of pianists Jason Rebello and Pablo Held, and bassist Yuri Goloubev. These plus my own playing of course, on soprano and tenor saxes, (overdubbed as I was conducting the orchestra) create the balance of narrative to place.
So does the characterisation of music in this way add up to anything more than a mental game, given that you can’t really have one element without the other being present anyway?
It is the balance of these two approaches, forever changing, that keeps creative music endlessly varied. Whether you are notating your feelings into compositions, or improvising direct to an audience, observations which help you maintain an overall view of your art, are much more than a mental game.
In Weather Walker, you could imagine the string orchestra as the landscape, and the soloists as those that witness the wonder of it. Their spontaneous performances inject the human narrative, the emotional response and the sense of journey, which is at once personal to them as players, but created to be shared.
Listen to a track, or pre-order here

Hi folks,

I was told some years ago by a senior record label that unless you could sum up what your recording was in one short sentence, it wouldn’t sell. The question, “Who ARE you?!”  had to be answered in the briefest of ways.

The search for new sub-genre, quick-handle terms has been a constant throughout my career. Often the incoming artist gets pinned to a more famous name – “The new Bill Evans, the new Michael Brecker, the new Miles” – so the audience has a quick handle on their style.

As audiences, we all need references. I’ve been toying with the following idea:

The whole development of our artistic culture has rested on promoting something new until it is something familiar. The whole culture of developing artists is to turn something familiar into something new.

It seems to stand up. I don’t know of an artist who didn’t start with familiar base material, no matter what they have gone on to do. Conversely, the promotion of the same artist will often rely on referencing back to these same familiar origins, increasingly in the language of a quick hash tag.

The word “New” will be used in any event. This isn’t cynicism, this is just how we roll.

One artist I’ve wanted to talk about is drummer Paul Motian, whose trio team with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell rocked my world throughout the 1980’s. Here was a band which most definitely made strong references to familiar music of the past whilst being breathtakingly original. I’d write more but Liam Noble has done it so beautifully in his blog already – please check out ‘Brother Face’:

https://liamnoble68.wordpress.com

Motian was hard to “package” quickly. I was grateful for that.

With its ‘built in rebellion button,’ the creative jazz scene does not lend itself to the creation of a unified voice which speaks up for its importance as a genre today. 

Sometimes I get the feeling that it is rather doughnut shaped, with a hole in the middle where that central, nurturing, reliable hub should be.

Within education, funding and jazz media we already have some great people nurturing the bigger picture.  Our music so often speaks of us all being branches of the same tree; maybe we should dare tend to its trunk a little more.

I’ve been totally loving two musicians’ work this week, which is what started me on this whole train of thought. Both I have followed from the beginning of their careers.

Kit Downes and his release Obsidian: I LOVE it. Church organ improv, texturally fascinating, daring and beautiful.  The sense of place it brings to bear is at times profound. The reworking of the Berio folk song arrangement was a joy to hear. Thank you Kit.

Many would also have heard Kit play in an urban / club setting too. This is just one side of the artist (Check out Enemy). We can do the stand up venues AND the sit down ones, despite these quick-handle boxes we are put in. Such labels float on the top of deep rivers.

In a similar way, Shabaka is now trail-blazing an amazingly high-energy dance club based music, totally plugged in to a broader philosophy and message – but I heard him (sitting down) in church too. Check out this link, with Shabaka on bass clarinet joined by Leaf Cutter John, and Cara Stacey. Brilliant.

https://soundcloud.com/shabakahutchings/life-cycle-live-at-stjohns-bethnal-green-church

Who wants to try and sum up their work as an artist in one short sentence?

We can, however, do our best to define each project we do, as best we can for a public swamped with content.

It is no secret that support for our music and its venues is precious and meagre, certainly here in the UK (just look at the funding opera gets by comparison, for example).

I’d encourage even the most idealist, separatist, anarchic young creatives not to distance themselves from our broader community. Beyond our need to press our rebellion buttons and go it alone, is a deeper unity that will actually determine our survival.

 

“The longest journey begins with a single step”  You’ve probably heard this quote that  originated from Lao Tzu whose name (I think) means “Old Man” in English.

Developing yourself as a musician should mean keeping a dynamic balance between the big picture and the seemingly little things you do, the micro and the macro. 

Think of it like this:

Every time we do half an hour’s practise, we are laying down another piece of track for our “train” to run on, so to speak. What is the ultimate direction of your train? Is what you are laying down right now, pointed in the right direction?  Lao Tzu was a wise geezer.

Musically, whilst focusing on particulars such as our sound, or sense of time for example, it will help to have also developed a clear long term aim. Why are so many of us slow to put our Big Picture into concise language?

Are we afraid to share the question of what it means to be creative, or of being judged as an un-spontaneous intellectual or a new-age dreamer, or are we just a bit lazy?

Creative souls such as jazz musicians tend to follow their impulses and do not tend to go in for things that are already clearly defined. Writing down a list of personal aims for your future may well feel like over-defining things, against your nature.

How many people know that the origin of the word define  means to “bring to an end” ?  Musicians know that “fine” will mean the end of the piece, I guess that’s a clue. 

To define is to create a boundary, it is to make apparent that point where one thing becomes another: your garden, his garden. The lick you invented, the lick he says you stole from him etc.

Something becomes defined, say, a musical genre, through having a repeated experience of it. As soon as it becomes readily recognisable, familiar, we can stick a label on it, (and probably try and sell it).

Creatives are doomed to be at odds with this to some extent. They will take great pleasure in choosing a piece of existing material, say a still-life model or a piece of music, breaking it up and recomposing it so that the original definition is bravely challenged.

I was at Ronnie Scotts a few weeks back and saw TRIO HLK open up for Chris Potter’s gig. Travelling by tube I passed an advert for a new Tate Modern Picasso exhibition, with the wonderfully distorted picture of the seated girl (The Dream).

I connected the two experiences half way through the trio’s set. Creativity is to redefine. There can be beauty, humour and something rejuvenating in having the defined things in our experience twisted about, in fact we need this in our lives.

I have just finished my latest album, and needed a name, and artwork. From the furry edges of creative play had to come something very defined, I shiver to use the word “product” but that is essentially what “Weather Walker” is of course.

So how do we join together our need to stay loose, adaptable and spontaneous with the disciplined visualisation of a predetermined plan?

Lao Tzu also spoke of the “cloud of unknowing” where trust is necessary. Fog patches come and go and are actually a vital ingredient and a sign that you are moving forward.

If your train track stretched from America’s west coast all the way to New York, you wouldn’t spend the whole journey looking around exclaiming, “well that’s not New York, and that’s not New York!”. It is understood that the experience of the journey itself with it’s changing landscape, is what makes your destination the prize that it is. 

Put into practise, that would mean that the next time you set half an hour aside to work, it is as worthy a “life moment” as the goal, the final point, itself.

The very way we are processing information these days is short-term, rapacious, impatient and often unconnected to the body, like a brain on two restless sticks.

To be in that “final point” as you settle into practise means to sacrifice the Urge To Splurge. (Please read my earlier rant on smartphones).

Here is the pay-off: You will come to know whether your train is running on the very best track for you much more clearly this way.  So to get the Big Picture, increase the quality of the Little One.

 RADIO 3  SUNDAY 11th March  –  special live interview featuring brand new material
[mentioned in blog 1].
Hi folks,
Try Googling up the word Belonging in any kind of artistic or sociological context and you’ll be treated to several PhD’s and a clutch of cool famous quotes to adorn your fridge door.  To Belong is indeed a fundamental need, and a major motivator of our work as artists and performers.
A brilliant CD cover is Keith Jarrett’s “Belonging” from 1974. I learned to sing along with every solo on that CD by the way.  The strange gravity of those party-balloons on the cover is poignant:
 Our playfulness is grounding, it is our life-blood. Our music-making, fleeting and beautifully imperfect, represents something fundamental in us which only finds expression with fellow souls.
 
I remember flying from Heathrow to play one 90 minute concert with Chick Corea in Charleston South Carolina.
During the first couple of years of touring with Chick a very odd thing had started to happen, I was getting more and more nervous about flying.  It was something that just developed, isn’t that the reverse of what’s meant to happen?
It had much to do with having a good imagination, and being on my own. I’ll do a separate blog about this and how I made friends with fear, as we are a nomadic profession, it might be of interest!
Anyhow, this gig was three flights there and three back:
A deep sense of alienation took hold on the trip out, what with delays and tight connections and almost losing all my instruments during a transfer.
I remember finally, finally getting onto that stage and hearing Chick open up, freely improvising his way into the first piece.  He might not tell you what it was going to be, but you’d pick it up from the little themes and motifs he’d start to throw in.
That moment of his piano resounding through the concert hall, the freedom and the joy of exploring was a home-coming, a welcoming back into the fold and an invitation to co-create. I belonged there, I was home.
Within hours I was back at the airport, on that intensely anonymous journey that Joni Mitchell says “Scrambles time and seasons”.  Did the physical home I arrived back to, feel any more real than the musical one I’d just experienced thousands of miles away?  Not really actually.
 
This Sunday I’ll be interviewed at Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival.
 “The One And The Many” is the theme, looking into the differing roles some of us juggle as composers, performers sidemen and leaders.

Taking ourselves very seriously at the 606. Myself, Gwilym Simcock, Joe Locke, Nadja (great friend and Joes manager) and my very own Joe (family family)!

I’m not sure what I’m going to be asked so in case I don’t say this on air, (find out by tuning in!)  I’ll say now that these musical hats we wear are informed constantly by our relationship to a group. They are part of a broader unity, for me anyway.  This broader sense of unity, a Belonging with capital B, is so important to me that I’ll travel the whole world to experience it.

 
 
I’m fond of the definition of the word play that children are familiar with. To play music without much goal orientation, centred in the moment, is something we don’t speak about that much.  Music education is, for better or worse, largely goal orientated, but isn’t playful absorption  just the best feeling?!

To find kindred spirits that share this view is wonderful, it is family.

I used to watch the Paul Motion Trio and note that Paul’s drumming had a knack of taking very serious things with humour, and taking all the humorous bits very seriously.
I heard this approach only the other night when I joined some musical “family members” Joe Locke and Gwilym Simcock who were deep in duet brilliance at the 606 club. What a privilege to have this musical family, it is a heart that  beats meaning and love into our work and our world.

Hi folks

I thought I’d share a pic of my new baby, a soprano sax made by Rampone, their curiously half-curved Saxello model which I customised a bit!

Apologies for being a big bore non sax players, but that’s just what this horn has, a big bore, meaning it can get a pretty big smooth sound, even if it’s just a little harder to tune than the brilliant Yanagisawa model I’ve had for twenty years. Some may remember me playing a fully curved silver soprano in the 1990’s and I wanted to approach something like this again.

Our instruments become part of us don’t they.  I’ve grown to love this one.

I decided to feature it on my latest CD Weather Walker, which we finished mixing just recently. I thought I’d share some personal footage, really made just for my own archive,  of me soloing on the title track. The string section was recorded earlier at Abbey Road, and the string group varies in size right up to forty three players on some pieces,

Photo: Joe Garland

more on that nearer the release date. I got completely hooked on an old folk tune from the North East called “The Snows They Melt The Soonest” and it became a presiding spirit during the writing of Weather Walker. You can hear a whole track on Radio 3 on March 11th when I am interviewed during this years Free Thinking Festival at The Sage Gateshead.

So…

Listen to the mighty Jason Rebello and Yuri Goloubev (who play stunningly well on this CD along with Pablo Held) and me, falling in love with my new baby. Just a little 2 minute clip here:

/span>