Wither "mainstream" jazz? Does the world REALLY need another version of "Stella By Starlight" or "There'll Be Some Changes Made?" Not to say these and other Immortal Standards are not great and worthy tunes, but aren't there times when you look at the track listing on a CD & have the feeling that you've HEARD IT ALREADY?!? Why should I listen to some young guy/gal cook-up/re-heat feeble variations on tunes that have been redefined time & time again by Ben Webster, Don Byas, Sinatra and the like? Can one hear accessible "straight-ahead" jazz that does not compromise imagination, without sounding like a buncha cats trying to turn the clock back to 1965? Tim Garland to the rescue! Garland is a saxophonist from the UK who's played with Kenny Wheeler, John Dankworth, Ralph Towner and, more recently, Chick Corea. He's obviously learned some important lessons compositionally - namely, a good, inviting tune does not have to be "too" simple or needlessly arch or self-consciously complex. Case in point: track 5, "Pablo." Touches of Astor Piazzolla's modern tango, some soulful Kenny Dorham lyricism and some thoughtful, subtle voicings (sax, trumpet, accordion) that recall the playfulness of Carla Bley with the elan of Gil Evans all swirl artfully together. "Emergence" has the deceptive breeziness of both Corea's Return To Forever (mark I) and the under-appreciated West Coast cool bebop of Sonny Criss, Shelly Manne and Richie Kamuca.
Garland's tunes - almost all originals, except for the more recent standard "Good Morning Heartache" - deeply and subtly assimilate various folk elements (especially Celtic) so that one might not notice if one weren't looking. In other words, no obvious "slumming" or half-assed "appropriation" of folk music(s) from condescending jazz players. His tunes twist & turn, never going where you expect them to, yet they are supremely and concretely harmonious, and inspire top-level playing from his group. Who, incidentally, are no slouches: Joe Locke (vibes), Geoff Keezer (piano) & Avishai Cohen (bass; also w/ Chick Corea). Damn fine stuff, & one of the few CDs I've heard in months that I can listen to beginning-to-end.