3.4.12

Michael Garrick Band - Home Stretch Blues (1972)



Michael Garrick (1933 – 2011) was an English jazz pianist and composer, and a pioneer in mixing jazz with poetry recitations. Garrick was born in Enfield, Middlesex, and educated at University College, London, from which he graduated in 1959 with a B.A. in English literature. As a student there he formed his first quartet, featuring vibraphonist Peter Shade. Recordings of this are on HEP (Chronos and Silhouette, released on Gearbox vinyl). Aside from some lessons at the Ivor Mairants School of Dance Music he was "an entirely self-taught musician" (he had been expelled from Eleanor B. Franklin-Pike's piano lessons for quoting from "In the Mood" at a pupils' concert), though he attended Berklee College, Boston, as a mature student in the 1970s. Soon after graduating, Garrick became the musical director of "Poetry & Jazz in Concert", a roadshow devised by poet and publisher Jeremy Robson, and involving writers as diverse as Laurie Lee, Adrian Mitchell, Vernon Scannell, Spike Milligan, Dannie Abse, and John Smith.

Garrick's quintet at this time included Joe Harriott and Shake Keane. He came to special prominence in the British contemporary jazz world initially as the pianist with the Don Rendell–Ian Carr quintet from 1965 to 1969, and led his own sextet from 1966.

Garrick is perhaps best known for his jazz-choral works, the first of which he started in 1967. Jazz Praises, an extended religious work for his sextet and a large choir, was performed at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and elsewhere. With poet John Smith he produced a series of such works, starting in 1969 with Mr Smith's Apocalypse for sextet, speakers, and chorus, which had its premiere at the Farnham Festival. The culmination of this partnership was A Zodiac of Angels, a choral jazz ballet performed opposite Carmina Burana under the innovative baton of Victor Fox in the Opera Theatre Manchester in January 1988 and utilising symphony orchestra, 7 jazz soloists including Norma Winstone, full choir and a dance company. Indian classical music has influenced many of his compositions.

Aside from his performing, recording, and composing, Garrick was heavily involved in jazz education, and held teaching posts at the Royal Academy of Music and at Trinity College of Music, London; he continued to teach at summer schools, both for the Guildhall School of Music and on his own Jazz Academy Vacation Courses, from 1989 at Beechwood in Tunbridge Wells. For many years he took his trio into schools presenting interactive events to introduce children to jazz.

His own record label Jazz Academy Records features many albums by his Michael Garrick Jazz Orchestra and has trio, solo, quartet and other small groupings, some including singers Norma Winstone, Anita Wardell and Jacqui Dankworth. In 2010 Garrick began a collaboration with vocalist Nette Robinson. At the time of his death he had also begun to develop work with a quartet including vibraphonist Jim Hart, which would have reworked some of the music of the Modern Jazz Quartet and would have provided an echo of his own first quartet, half a century before.

Garrick was appointed MBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours. Garrick died on 11 November 2011 after suffering heart problems for some years.