Moment of Departure is a triumph. A bold, ambitious, affecting project, which successfully integrates jazz with classical.

Ubuntu Music UBU0155CD

Tim Garland (soprano and tenor saxes, bass clarinet, conductor); Gwilym Simcock (piano); Asaf Sirkis (drums); Thomas Gould (violin); Yazz Ahmed (flugelhorn); The Strings of The Britten Sinfonia; The Strings of the London Studio Orchestra; Rob Millett (cimbalom)

Recorded 7 July 2021 Abbey Road Studio One; 14/15 September 2023 Masterchord Studios; 29 September 2023 School Farm Studios. Soloists recorded at Oak Gable Studio

Tim Garland is a man of dualities. A tenor saxophonist who is also a prolific composer; a musician who straddles the worlds of jazz and classical music, and a man who had a musical association with Chick Corea for seventeen years and has also played with the pop band Duran Duran. This duality is explored in this album, which is fittingly a two-disc release, focusing on Garland’s roles as both a player, and as a composer/conductor.

Garland has long been fascinated by the art of improvisation – playing in the moment; creating on the fly; instantly responding to what you hear and what you feel and producing something that can never be exactly repeated again. Indeed, the music on Disc One was inspired by work of Turkish artist Esra Kizir Gocken, who is based in London. Her artwork consists of improvised beginnings and free-flowing forms – the album artwork is by her. On this album, Garland intertwines improvised pieces with composed works, and combines an orchestral string section with a jazz trio.

Garland is joined by members of his Lighthouse Trio, which has been together for twenty years. Pianist Gwilym Simcock has toured with Dave Holland and Pat Metheny, and his musical influences include Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Bartok and Ravel. Drummer Asif Sirkis currently holds the drummer’s chair in Soft Machine, and has played with many artists including Larry Coryell, Kenny Wheeler and Dave Liebman. Jazz trios don’t come much stronger than this line-up.

Disc one consists of seven pieces, with all but one composed by Garland. On two tracks, the trio is joined by the strings of the Britten Sinfonia, led by Clio Gould. On one number, they are accompanied by the British-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed, who plays flugelhorn. Ahmed is an exciting talent, whose approach to music reminds me of the Swiss trumpeter Erik Truffaz, both of them crossing musical boundaries and embracing electronics.

The opener ‘Winds of Hope’ starts with Simcock playing a spiky piano riff, followed by Garland playing the fanfare-like theme on soprano sax. Sirkis’s bass drum sets up a 4/4 beat, over which he plays an array of accents and fills. Asif is an energetic drummer, but he never over-plays or over-powers. Simcock plays a flowing solo and the sound is sweetened by the strings of the Britten Sinfonia. The next three numbers feature the Lighthouse Trio exclusively. ‘Trails’ is full Eastern influence. Garland’s winding tenor sax lines blend with clinking percussion. Garland’s forceful solo is accompanied by a series of machine gun-like fills from Sirkis.

‘No Horizon’ is a beautiful tune, and more like a mini suite. It starts off with Simcock’s graceful, circular piano riff and Garland joining on bass clarinet. It reminds me of the music played by EST, and evoked in this listener, a vision of clouds drifting across a big sky. A short interlude around the two and a half minute mark has Garland switching to soprano sax. Simcock plays a stirring solo that increases in intensity, before the tune reverts back to the opening section. ‘The Impossible Self’ is a nervous-sounding piece with a dramatic opening, as Simcock’s pounding, dark chords interplay with Sirkis’s thundering toms and Garland’s scuttling tenor lines.

‘Sub Vita’ is an atmospheric piece featuring Yazz Ahmed, who plays a flugelhorn spiced with echo and reverb. It’s another tune heavily influenced by Eastern music and Ahmed is superb, her horn soaring to the skies at times. At the coda she uses an electronic effect to change the pitch and create some out-of-this-world sounds.

The title track was created by spontaneous solo improvisations by the trio members (its composition is credited to all three of them), which are interlaced with strings from the Britten Sinfonia. Garland plays soprano sax. The string arrangement includes long flowing sections, stabbing lines and pizzicato – it’s a stirring performance from both band and orchestra, and a compelling fusion of classical and jazz. The closing number on disc one, ‘Moment of Arrival’ is a short (just one and a half minutes long) dark, moody piece. It’s almost a solo performance by Garland on bass clarinet – his brooding lines are joined in places by single-note strikes by both drummer and pianist.

For the second disc, the focus is on three Cs – classical music, composition and conducting – Garland plays on one of the six pieces, with the conductor’s baton replacing the saxophone on five of them. There’s also a seasonal theme to all the music, and the album liner notes include a quote from Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Autumn’.

The first piece, ‘Approaching Winter’ is based on Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ concerto from The Four Seasons, and combines the Lighthouse Trio (with Garland playing soprano sax) and the string section of the Britten Sinfonia. It begins with the string section playing variations of the famous theme before transforming into a lively jazz workout. The strings return, followed by a mournful violin solo, and a call-and-response section between soprano sax and violin. Simcock solos on the piece. The two elements – jazz trio and strings fit together really well.

The Forever Seed consists of five concerto-like movements which track the changing seasons, and the last movement, defining our place in the ever-changing world. Although all the pieces are composed and led by the strings of the London Studio Orchestra, Garland has included short improvisational interludes, involving violinist Thomas Gould, Gwilym Simcock on piano and Rob Millett on a cimbalom, a string instrument from Eastern Europe, played with two sticks. The interludes are subtle and almost seamless – there’s no jarring transition from one to the other.

Part I ‘Fruit’ marks the change from spring to summer. This vibrant piece bursts with energy, like flowers blooming and trees returning to full leaf. ‘Made Beautiful’ documents the move from summer to autumn, and starts with a long, contemplative piano solo. It’s slower piece than ‘Fruit’ suggesting days that are slowly getting shorter and the pace of life beginning to shift down a gear. ‘Harbinger’ is about autumn changing to winter. The sound is full of urgency, with slashing strings to the fore, and ends with a dramatic climax, as if nature is preparing for the long, dark, cold winter ahead. ‘Nascency’ completes the circle – the change from winter to spring. It starts with a slow piano solo, as if nature is slowly waking up. The strings

enter and the music increases in tempo. You might expect the piece to continue in this vein – after all, spring is a season of energy, renewal and revival – but in fact, Garland surprises the listener by doing the opposite, and slowing it all down in the final section.

The concluding movement, ‘Praise’ begins slowly, led by Simcock’s piano solo – the musician has a lovely touch. Simcock’s piano and Gould’s violin play the sorrowful theme together. Then, the string section becomes energised, and Gould’s violin soars, and in doing so, lifts the spirits, giving hope and optimism for the future.

Moment of Departure is a triumph. A bold, ambitious, affecting project, which successfully integrates jazz with classical. If Tim Garland doesn’t win some awards for this work; he’ll have been robbed.