Michael Garrick: Composer andpianist hailed for his fusions of jazz and poetry

 

Duke Ellington had Mrs Clinkscales. Michael Garrick had the no less splendidly named Eleanor B Franklin-Pike, but while Duke may have turned out to be a model pupil, Garrick was banished from the only formal music lessons he took in childhood for smuggling phrases from "In The Mood" into a classical test-piece at a students' concert. Of such are jazz careers made.

Garrick's lasted half a century, only to be cut short when he succumbed to a chronic heart condition while undergoing long-delayed surgery to correct it. He leaves a legacy of more than 30 recordings as composer and group-leader, many others as a pianist, and his sons Gabriel, a trumpeter, and Christian, a jazz violinist, to continue the Garrick name in British music.

The choice of names is significant. Garrick's best known work remains, perversely, his 1968 Jazz Praises at St Paul's, a naturalised – or Anglicanised – version of Ellington's Sacred Concerts but also an extension of his own early fascination with jazz-and-poetry projects, which led him to collaborate with or use texts by Dannie Abse, Thomas Hardy, Vernon Scannell and JRR Tolkien. He also wrote music based on Peter Pan, a Rudolf Steiner lecture on the destination of souls, a dictionary of angels and, most wittily of all, in The Royal Box, on the peculiar language of our tabloid obsession with the royal family. If there is a title that sums him, it is perhaps Mr Smith's Apocalypse, written to poems by John Smith for the 1969 Farnham Festival, suggesting an unusually homely approach to Last Things (his fellow British composer Mike Westwood did something similar with William Blake).

Michael Garrick was born in Enfield, Middlesex, in 1933. He studied English literature at University College London, where he began playing jazz, recording "Blues For The Lonely" with the legendary West Indian saxophonist Joe Harriott, and trumpeter Shake Keane. Garrick remained close to the troubled Harriott, who played with him again on October Woman and Black Marigolds in 1965 and 1966.

Garrick continued to experiment with voices, employing the Elizabethan Singers and John Smith on those records respectively, and introduced Norma Winstone into his group, not as a singer but as an instrumental member of the ensemble. She plays a central part on the superb 1970 LP The Heart Is A Lotus. During the same period, Garrick also held the piano chair in the Ian Carr-Don Rendell Quintet, an important group in the evolution of modern jazz in Britain. Its 1965 Dusk Fire is named after a Garrick composition, and he revived the title last year for an autobiography, subtitled Jazz in English Hands, written with Trevor Bannister.

In the 1970s, Garrick studied at the Berklee School in Boston and became involved in jazz and music education, teaching at Trinity College and the Royal Academy but also leading important summer courses at the Guildhall and, latterly, his own Jazz Academy held at Tunbridge Wells, which also gave rise to a record label of the same name.

One thinks perhaps of Garrick as a composer first and a piano player second, and his small group work, with piano foregrounded, is much underrated. The early Cold Mountain (1972) with Dave Green and Trevor Tomkins is not so much an orthodox piano trio in the Bill Evans manner (Garrick was to include Evans, and Ellington, in an ongoing series of musical "Jazz Portraits") as a bold attempt to write and play orchestrally with a small combo. It remains a strikingly original work.

With the Jazz Academy imprint available to him, Garrick was able to sidestep commercial label indifference and release his own New Quartet and Inspirations in the present decade. Christian and Don Rendell joined him on Parting Is Such in 1995, which put together songs by Canteloube, Lennon & McCartney. and "My Funny Valentine". Green and Pleasant Land also had father and son in a notably quiet set recorded in Missenden Church in Buckinghamshire.

He continued to develop big band projects, including one dedicated to Joe Harriott's music, as well as music for sacred places and occasions. The music characteristically blended elements of English pastoral and American blues, simple diatonic melody and an approach to harmony that was often highly ambiguous and ethereal, but never perfumed. Michael Garrick remained, first and last, a jazz musician. He was awarded an MBE in 2010, an honour he accepted on behalf of the profession as much as for himself.

Michael Garrick, pianist and composer: born Enfield, Middlesex 30 May 1933; MBE 2010; died Harefield, Middlesex 11 November 2011.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
John Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Solutions Consultant (financial services)

£50000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: SQL Solutions Consultant (financi...

Implementation Consultant - Business Analyst, SQL

£50000 - £70000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading prov...

Application Support - Unix, Linux, Windows, Bash, Perl, Python

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: An established leader in the Trading Syste...

Senior IOS Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil