(Vocalion)

Michael Garrick – born in 1933 – is a peculiar character of English music who undoubtedly should be better known and appreciated by a larger segment of record-consuming population. His compositional attitude shows both admiration for traditions and the urge of trying new solutions in settings and orchestrations that mix lots of different ideas and influences. This probably derives from being self-taught (hey – the best talents own gifts, did you ever notice that?) and, in fact, he was once expelled by a piano lesson for inserting a quote from “In the mood” during a pupils’ exhibition. The main feature Garrick is remembered for, though, is the fusion of jazz and poetry, of which this CD – reissuing an LP from 1971 – is a great example. The basic concept underlying poet John Smith’s writings is that “god never seems to listen, never intervenes when most desperately needed and prayed to” (this was then; one wonders what Mr. Smith would have written today). The leader, who plays organ throughout, adapted the lyrics to the score in such a fashion that the outcome, a so called “jazz cantata”, sounds like a cross of twisted excerpts from musicals – “Jesus Christ Superstar” to “Tommy”, to name a couple that sprang to mind – enhanced by strange intervallic designs and harmonically complicated passages nearing the whole to the most intricate progressive rock. The principal vocalists are Norma Winstone, George Murcell and Betty Mulcahy besides Smith himself; the band comprises Henry Lowther (trumpet, flugelhorn), Don Rendell and Art Themen (tenor & soprano saxes, clarinet, flute), Coleridge Goode (double bass), Trevor Tompkins (percussion). Eccentric, abnormal music that requires attention in large doses and repays it in full. The reissue is completed by two tracks, “Epiphany” and “Blessed are the peacemakers”, that came out in the same year on an EP, then disappeared; the latter in particular is a splendid song, somehow recalling the work of Christian and Stella Vander in Magma and Offering, a reinforcement of my suggestion to get a copy of this forgotten gem. Bizarre, yet so interesting.

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