Tim Garland – Return To The Fire – Edition Records EDNLP1063 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi)  stereo vinyl, 40:47 ****1/2:

(Tim Garland – tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Gerard Presencer – trumpet, Flugelhorn; Jason Rebello – piano, Fender Rhodes; Jeremy Stacey – drums; Mick Hutton – doublebass; Tom Farmer – doublebass; Lawrence Cottle – electric bass; Jamed Maddren – drums; Ant Law – guitar)

The U.K. has been a bona fide jazz scene for seven decades. Musicians embraced a variety of genres, including big band, fusion bop and abstract.  The succeeding generations followed in the dedication and preservation of traditional jazz forms. One of the innovative figures in this group is Tim Garland. A superlative musician (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and bass clarinet) and highly regarded composer, his 1997 release Enter The Fire caught the attention of Chick Corea. At present, Garland tours with Corea. At the core of his music is a reverence for American jazz idioms.

For his latest release Return To The Fire, Garland has reassembled the quintet (and some new players) from the 1997 breakthrough album. It is apparent that innate chemistry is present. The opening track, “Abiding Love” (the first of four original compositions) features a stellar arrangement for a swinging bop-era jam.  With flair, a tenor saxophone (Garland) and Flugelhorn (Presencer) share the melody lines against a fluid punctuated rhythm section (Jeremy Stacey on drums and Mick Hutton on doublebass).  Throughout the piece there are subtle tempo changes, but the musical flow never falters. Jason Rebello shines on a spirited piano solo. Both Garland and {Presencer have excellent solos and trade licks at the end. The group envelops J.J. Johnson”s “Lament” with articulate moodiness. Garland reaches for the poignant essence of the composition with his vibrato-laced tenor. His command of the registers is impressive. On the title cut, the group explodes in frenzied celebration. Stacey is stylishly propulsive and Hutton offers percolating and staccato-infused licks. Both Garland and Presencer push the jam with unrestrained, colorful resonance

Side B simmers down in cool jazz fashion on “Valse Pour Ravel”. Garland switches to soprano saxophone (joined in the “double” lead by Presencer). His affinity for exploring the heart of a melody is uncanny. There is significant cohesion within the quintet, and the lead players fill in behind the soloists with dexterity. Garland’s tenor strikes a gossamer ambiance throughout the evocative McCoy Tyner ballad, “Search For Peace”. His extended solo is delicate and soulful. Rebello contributes a hushed, complex solo of his own. At nearly ten minutes, this number is compelling. The finale (“All Our Summers”) adds new personnel (Tom Farmer/double bass; Laurence Cottle/electric bass; James Madden/drums and Ant Law/guitar) to a splashy, up tempo fusion arrangement.

The vinyl recording seems to be a perfect fit for this straight-ahead jazz album. The stereo separation is excellent. The saxophone and Flugelhorn have tonal richness. Details like drum rims and upper-register piano notation are precise and distinctive. When the ensembles are playing in unison, the layered sound is natural, not dense. Continuing the old school vibe, Return To The Fire is available only on vinyl, not CD. Downloads are available.


Side A: Abiding Love; Lament; Return To The Fire

Side B: Valse Pour Ravel; Search For Peace; All Our Summers

–Robbie Gerson