For those who missed out on Storms/Nocturnes, the trio consists of Garland on tenor and soprano sax, as well as bass clarinet; Geoffrey Keezer on piano; and Joe Locke on vibes and marimba. While the impulse is to call what they do chamber jazz, it defies the usual characteristics of impressionism, introversion and pensiveness. Rather than draw you into an inner world of thought and expression, Rising Tide jumps out at you from the first notes of "After Dark". This trio is extroverted and vibrant; even the quieter pieces, like "A Brother’s Gift", have a pulse and drive that is rarely found in chamber jazz.
Ever since Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s landmark album, Crystal Silence, I’ve always had a soft spot for combining piano and vibes. And there is no question that Keezer and Locke borrow from that source; when one is soloing the other provides an almost orchestral support. And when they are working together in support of Garland they have a remarkable empathy; it’s as if each player is an extension of the other. In addition to Garland’s compositions, which make up most of the record, Locke contributes the energetic and lithe "Dance Me Delirious", while Keezer contributes two pieces, the Ralph Towner-informed "Honu" and the dark "Shelter".
Garland, through his own recordings and work with Chick Corea’s Origin, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks and other projects, is finally gaining the international recognition he so richly deserves, both as a player and a composer. On tenor he has a muscular tone that is refreshingly not from the Brecker school; his soprano sound is rich, less nasally than most players; and his bass clarinet sounds warm and deep. On all instruments Garland is developing a curious yet always lyrical style that is all his own. As a composer he is broadening his base; he has recently been appointed as Resident Composer at Newcastle University’s International Centre for Music Studies, the first appointment of a jazz composer at any major UK music school; and he is writing for a variety of contexts as diverse as the Storms/Nocturnes trio, his "little big band" Dean Street Underground Orchestra, and for large orchestras. His writing is filled with moving rhythmic pulses and memorable melodies.
On Rising Tide Garland expands the sonic palette of the trio by adding a string quartet on the extended composition, "Sonata". The subtlety of shading the strings provide is truly unique. On the CD closer, "Fantasy", Garland scores the string quartet parts to an impromptu soprano sax improvisation, which brings new meaning to the term "spontaneous composition".
The music on Rising Tide borrows liberally from many traditions including jazz, blues, folk and classical impressionism. The result is a varied programme of music, played with confidence and imagination by three players who deserve to gain a broader audience, both individually and collectively. Easily as good as Storms/Nocturnes, and arguably better, Rising Tide deserves a place as one of the top jazz albums of 2003.