I'm sad to say that Michael Garrick passed away last Friday leaving a legacy hard to rival on both the British and the worldwide jazz scene.
Tony Higgins,who compiled both the "Impressed" cds of British jazz and contributed the third unreleased volume to this blog last year was a friend of Michael Garricks so who better to pay tribute to him.
Michael Garrick 1933 - 2011
The death of Michael Garrick on 11 Nov 2011 brings to a close a most fascinating and extraordinary life dedicated to one thing - music. In the time I knew Mike, his humour, erudition and commitment was infectious and inspiring and it seemed entirely appropriate that I was playing his beautiful and haunting composition 'Black Marigolds', a track about loss and memory, the moment I heard the sad news. I'm not a believer in fate but this made me pause for a moment, think deeply and feel the moment. Thinking and feeling. Two qualities that Mike valued highly.
I first became aware of Mike Garrick in the early 90s through his contributions to the work of the Don Rendell-Ian Carr Quintet. I knew nothing about him other than his credit on the sleeve of 'Dusk Fire', as both pianist and composer of the title track. The music was entrancing, mysterious and evocative; it curled, danced and soared, at one time epic and majestic, at others intimate and personal. In essence, this was Mike's music - bold, inventive and fun. 'Dusk Fire' set me on an obsessive journey to explore this man's work, culminating in the two volumes of British modern jazz, 'Impressed', that I pulled together with DJ /radio presenter Gilles Peterson.
Contacting Michael to tell him that we were including his material on a compilation, he was initially a little guarded, yet curious. I suppose getting a call out of the blue about tracks that were 40 years old seemed novel, if not a little strange. It soon became clear that Mike's main interest was the here and now, not the past, and his main passion was performing. He loved to get out there and play. However, he was generous and patient with me and my endless stream of questions about his work with Joe Harriott, Ian Carr and others who held prime slots on my record shelves. He provided the introduction my sleevenotes to 'Impressed Vol. 1', and steered the reissue of his final Argo album 'Troppo' on CD for the first time. To get this music accessible again was a great thrill for me. Fortunately, all of his sublime Argo recordings are available once again.
I was also fortunate to work on the 2004 BBC TV series 'Jazz Britannia' that traced the post-war jazz scene in the UK. Mike featured in two episodes and appeared on the bill in the accompanying live concert at the Barbican alongside his old bandmates Don Rendell, Trevor Tomkins and Dave Green. Mike also led a big band through his own arrangements of Tubby Hayes' 'Down in the Village', Neil Ardley's 'Will You Walk a Little Faster' and presented a magnificent rendition of his own 'Black Marigolds' featuring his vocal muse Norma Winstone. Watching it from the stalls made me shiver in awe.
It soon became apparent that Mike was always looking for the joke in things. His quips and sparky conversation lifted the spirits and to see him bounce around his piano, beaming a smile, unable to contain himself as his band played away, really was life affirming. I looked forward to our conversations and meetings, him calling me 'The Professor' and telling me tales of gigging and recording in the 50s and 60s. Anecdotes included the time he gave Bill Evans a lift in his car, a Hillman Imp, driving up Hampstead Hill behind a lorry carrying tons of bricks. The lorry hit a bump in the road and some large bricks fell out, bounced off the road and spun toward the car , heading directly towards the windscreen and the face of Bill Evans. Mike, at the last second, managed to skid out of the way narrowly avoiding a nasty crash and a headline that would have forever have linked his name to the death of the world's leading jazz pianist. Of course, to hear Mike tell the tale in his own way was most of the story.
I felt very fortunate to have met and known Mike. Getting the chance to tell someone how much you enjoy their work, and see them genuinely moved by it, is very touching. Mike was a very genuine and emotionally open man. The depth and range of his music was extraordinary. From covering his beloved Duke Ellington to sacred music via poetry and folk, Mike's insatiable curiosity for life will always be with us - in his wonderful music. Thank you Mike. Play on