Songs to the North Sky (Edition Records)

Tim Garland

Released June 2, 2014

The Guardian 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2014




For years now, Tim Garland’s playing and composition have less reflected ‘influences’ than styles he has deeply assimilated -everything from Celtic music to Yellowjackets fusion, from free improvisation to classical performance, from ECM ‘third stream’ to left-field electroacoustics. As a composer, he uses his native eclecticism and phenomenal technique to make telling and often surprising connections; as a bandleader, he creates spaces in which other musicians will surprise themselves. Songs to the North Sky unites these two strands of his career in one remarkable project. After two years in the making between much international touring and time away from the UK, Garland celebrates ten years of “Lighthouse Music” and a deserved place once again as band leader. One half of Songs to the North Sky features Lighthouse, Garland’s expandable small group celebrating a new chapter to mark its tenth year. Garland and the astonishing percussion of Asaf Sirkis are joined here by three of the most talented pianists working in jazz today: Jason Rebello, Geoffrey Keezer and John Turville. Bassist Kevin Glasgow and guitarist Ant Law are newcomers to the Lighthouse project, but typically, Garland has devised perfect spaces in which their two singular talents can flourish.

Garland himself has rarely played with such exhilarating freedom. His years on the road with Chick Corea have instilled a confident presence to the delivery of every note, and he has become one of those rare musicians for whom the idea of ‘live performance’ is indistinguishable from merely picking up the instrument. The group functions from a trio up, as it always has, with elements of his long-standing kinship with Celtic music permitted to appear alongside the more obvious modern jazz influences such as Corea. It is not such a surprise to find a simple and beautiful duet rendition of “She’s Out Of My Life” the pop anthem made famous by Michael Jackson. Garland’s love of melody (hence “Songs”) and his celebrated soprano sax sound ensures an overall cogency to the project. Songs to the North Sky, for orchestral strings, both jazz and classical percussion, and Garland as soloist, takes up the other half of this recording. It reflects Garland’s ten years association with (and frequent displacement from) northeast England, its constantly changing cloudscapes and wild seas. One of its principal joys is hearing what happens when Garland writes for himself: listening to the undulating layers of the string ensemble shape themselves around Garland’s fluid and astonishingly articulate reeds is a little like watching some rare animal finally released back into its native environment. These radiant pieces are bridged by improvised links, finely intelligent ‘breathers’ played by the great bassist and friend, John Patitucci.

This is at once both local and international music, with several titles alluding to place names of the northeast. It was in part sponsored generously by The Sage Gateshead and is played sumptuously by the Royal Northern Sinfonia strings. For all its eclecticism, though, this music is no mere series of surprises, or cinematic musings, but of remarkable solutions to questions Garland himself poses. The result is a succession of thrilling journeys across new terrain others might have decided was impassable. In its instrumental virtuosity and compositional sophistication, Songs to the North Sky.

Track Listing:

Disc 1

1. Uplift! (Tim Garland) 05:46

2. Little Sunshine (Tim Garland) 05:34

3. A Brother’s Gift (Tim Garland) 07:04

4. Yes To This (Tim Garland) 07:17

5. The Perth Flight (Tim Garland) 05:21

6. Farewell To Ed (Tim Garland) 08:01

7. Lammas Days (Tim Garland) 07:27

8. She’s Out of My Life (Tom Bahler) 03:23

Disc 2

1. The Road Into Night (Tim Garland) 03:55

2. Dawnbreakers (Tim Garland) 03:31

3. Interlude 1 (Tim Garland) 01:54

4. Tyne Song (Tim Garland) 03:53

5. Storm Over Kielder (Tim Garland) 04:03

6. Interlude 2 (Tim Garland) 02:40

7. Little Bay Blue (Tim Garland) 03:35

8. Shapes Over Northumberland (Tim Garland) 04:28

9. Interlude 3 (Tim Garland) 02:21

10. Lullaby of the Road (Tim Garland) 04:07

11. Sage and Time (Tim Garland) 03:07

12. Interlude 4 (Tim Garland) 02:40

13. A Journeyman’s Horizon (Tim Garland) 04:10

14. Freedom To Wander (Tim Garland) 04:19

15. Sage and Time [Remix] (Tim Garland) 04:14


Tim Garland: tenor and soprano sax, bass clarinet, flute

Asaf Sirkis: custom percussion kit

John Patitucci: double and electric basses

Neil Percy: tuned and classical percussion

Magdalena Filipczak: violin

The Royal Northern Sinfonia Strings

Jason Rebello: piano (2, 5, 7, 8)

John Turville: piano (3, 4, 6)

Geoffrey Keezer: piano (1)

Ant Law: electric and steel string guitars (1, 3, 4, 6)

Kevin Glasgow: electric bass (2, 5, 7)

Disc 1

Track 1,3,4,6 recorded at Eastcote Studio London.
Track 2,5,7,8 recorded at Curtis Schwart’s, West Sussex.
Piano on track 1 recorded at SpraguerLand Recording Studio CA.
Mixed at Candle On The Moon Studio.
Mastered at The Blue Studio by Andrew Tulloch, London.

Disc 2

Strings recorded at the SageGateshead and conducted by Tim Garland.
Percussion and solo parts recorded at Eastcote Studio and Limehouse Studio, London.
John Patitucci recorded by Doug Epstein, New York.

Artwork by Darren Rumney
Photography by Agato Maszek
Executive Producer: Dave Stapleton


This imaginative and consummately crafted double set from Tim Garland splits between new work for his small band Lighthouse, and the chamber-orchestra piece of the title. Garland has been a fine original composer and much sought after instrumentalist (most notably for Chick Corea) since the 1980s, but this set really does feel like the tying-up of many threads in his life that have sometimes felt tantalisingly separated. Every necessary skill for such a big venture – from songwriting, to bandleading, to improvising, or composing a classical-orchestra score now seem to be in harmony with him. The tenor-sax anthem Uplift! (over Geoff Keezer’s racing piano ostinato) snaps the set into action, and the Lighthouse tracks consistently show how naturally Garland can mix Jan Garbarek-like atmospherics and soul-sax muscle. He subtly mingles Ant Law’s guitar, Asaf Sirkis’s percussion, John Patitucci’s bass virtuosity, or the voicelike qualities of a soprano sax on the ballad She’s Out of My Life. The orchestral scores reflect Tippett, Bartók and Vaughan Williams, evoking dark skies with jagged strings flashing across them like shooting stars, the thrash of stormy seas. It all took two years, but it feels like the culmination of a life’s work.

John Fordham (The Guardian)