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Audio CD, 24 Oct 2005
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Vocalion's superb 2005 CD re-issue of British pianist/composer Michael Garrick's 1965 Argo album, never before available in digital format. This re-issue is part of Vocalion's acclaimed CDSML series, dedicated to re-issuing the finest British jazz and progressive albums of the 1960s and '70s on CD.
Vocalion's 'October Woman' re-issue features the superior sound quality which the company is renowned for, and includes a superb 8-page booklet including rare photographs of the recording sessions taking place, from Michael Garrick's personal collection. Also included are Michael Garrick's recollections of working with the wonderful Joe Harriott and Shake Keane, helping to give a fascinating insight into the music, plus the original LP and Anthem/Wedding Hymn EP (included here as bonus tracks) liner notes.
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Harriott (alto), Keane (tpt) and Goode (b) (all West Indian immigrants) had worked together in London for many years and had produced the magnificent album "Abstract" three years or so earlier.
The musicianship is, as expected, absolutely first rate throughout the album. The music comes from Garrick throughout and much was written with Joe Harriott and Shake Keane in mind. It is absolutely unique, and in no pastiche of American jazz. Garrick had a great career ahead of him, so for followers of that journey, this album has an important place.
Personally I am less keen on the two final tracks, originally released on a separate E.P. However lovers of more classical / church music, they may have greater appeal. I certainly wouldn't rubbish anything from Michael Garrick even if it isn't to my personal taste.
The loss of Shake Keane (he went back home to teach English Literature) and Joe's untimely death mean that any recording featuring these two stars of the British modern jazz scene of this period are to be treasured.
This first group of his definitely had its own recognisable style, with all the members easily recognisable -especially Coleridge Good with his vocal accompaniment! Having initially bought the LP on pure spec back in in the 60s, I was immediately hooked. It isn't everyone's idea of what 'jazz' 'should be' perhaps - but that was always the case with British artistes. (I can remember Chris Barber in his early days getting slated for not being 'New Orleans' enough, mainly because he didn't use a piano!)
This collection is a great introduction to Garrick's eclectic style. 'All my own work and I have to earn my living by it' as the chalked sign on many a pavement used to say, but Garrick was no pavement artist. Following that line of thought, he definitely belonged inside the National Gallery: it is not so far fetched, now I come to think of it, to compare him to Turner because of his less orthodox approach to his art. (Others may well disagree, naturally!) So, while Wedding Hymn and Anthem, for example, may not have found their niche in church music, still they are exciting and invigorating pieces of music in their own right, and the other items on this cd are all worth investigating for the enjoyment they provide.
Ten compositions of beauty, simplicity and originality. Seven Pillars begins proceedings; a driving waltz- time piece featuring Shake Keane audaciously changing his trumpet sound in mid-solo, with Garrick’s comping subtly sublime and sensitive. In Little Girl, Harriott is beautifully evocative with unusually dulcet tones. Keane’s playful muted trumpet solo and Harriott’s soaring alto lines set the scene in Sweet & Sugary Candy, followed by a good-humoured bowed solo from Coleridge Goode. Blue Scene evokes the soul movement of the 1950s and is rhythmically delightful. Colin Barnes’ drumming in particular is sharp and percussive, complemented by strong, bluesy piano chords and a pulsating bass line from Goode. Anthem begins majestically with Keane’s trumpet and Harriott’s alto in canon, before they joust with each other in freeform. The rhythm section maintains the hypnotic 5/4 time throughout. Return of an Angel is ushered in with Garrick’s sombre piano head in parallel fifths, one of three pieces on this album to use only rhythm section as a trio. Sketches of Israel uses muted trumpet to great effect, in a light, rapid moving playful piece, especially towards the end when trumpet and piano trade fours in mimicry of each other. The eponymous October Woman follows, portrayed by Keane’s soulful trumpet and augmented by Garrick’s sparse piano chords. Echoes sees Harriott take the lead with a Parker-esque solo followed by the dextrous lines of Garrick. Finally, the gentle, waltzing Fairies of Oneiros begins with Garrick’s beautiful melodic head, his ensuing solo in full imaginative flow faithfully supported by Goode and Barnes’ gently driving cymbals and brushed snare.
There is the added bonus on this album of Garrick’s Anthem EP, which presents Wedding Hymn as a sacred music offering complete with pipe organ and swing section, followed by Anthem, again showcasing organ, a full choir and Harriott and Keane in superb freeform mode. Who else, apart from Ellington, has ever spliced church music with jazz to such great effect? And Garrick’s recording pre-dated Duke’s first sacred concert by six months.
October Woman is also a timeless reminder of just how good an altoist Joe Harriott was; a close equal to Parker. Albums of such outstanding beauty are rare indeed. Buy now and get acquainted with your heritage.
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