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Lighthouse revisited

April 8, 2009

As my little review of this gig has now appeared in Jazzwise, in slightly abbreviated form (bottom right hand of last review page gets squeezed), though I would archive it here, too.

Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio, St. George’s, Bristol

An evening which starts with a gentle rendition of Blue in Green is not setting out to startle, but can prove that the modern mainstream has plenty of life in it yet. Here it came with an added kick. Much of the life in this threesome comes from the subtle, fizzing energies of Asif Sirkis’ percussion commentaries, beaten out with hands and sticks on a variety of surfaces.

At first hearing, Sirkis’ custom percussion – the substitution which transformed the bass-driven Acoustic Triangle into the Lighthouse trio a few years ago – has a thinner sound than a regular trap set. But the variety of timbres he conjures from his kit as the evening goes on reveals one reason why the trio are such versatile partners for other performers.

With just the three of them tonight, there is more emphasis on brilliant playing, from front man Garland, man of the moment Gwilym Simcock at the Steinway, and Sirkis.
Garland’s compositions are pleasant rather than compelling, and he eschews any extremes of register on any of his horns – no shrieks, no funky bass clarinet effects. But his easy virtuosity blends well with Simcock’s facility. There are lots of exuberant unison lines as well as some intense soloing from both of them.

The most absorbing arrangements were of pieces by others, smartly programmed at the end of each set – Kenny Wheeler’s tango Sly Eyes, played with convincing strut and swagger, and Simcock’s treatment of Mingus’ Nostalgia in Times Square. This brought one of his most rhythmically inspired excursions. At the start of the evening, a slightly effortful stiffness about the time, with the intermittent effect of playing the instrument rather than the music, seemed to hang over his keyboard. By the end, no trace remained. Playing with Sirkis would help anybody loosen up.

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