Sandy Brown Jazz

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Kinda Pastoral

Music Inspired by Landscape
Highlighting Tim Garland's New Album
Weather Walker

by Howard Lawes




Tim Garland Weather Walker



It has been noted before (e.g. Philip Scowcroft) that the Lake District, while it has inspired a multitude of artists and poets, seems to have had less impact on composers of music. On the other hand one of the most famous of British hunting songs from the nineteenth century - D'ye Ken John Peel - was inspired by an eponymous Cumbrian farmer and well known huntsman with words and music by fellow Cumbrian John Graves.  Hunting songs and folk music continue to be popular in the Lake District today with frequent events throughout the area such as the Stepping Stones Festival and Music on the Marr. A dissertation by Susan Allan, Folk Song in Cumbria - A Distinctive Regional Repertoire? (2016) is a very comprehensive review of the subject available online. Brass band music has also had and continues to have an enthusiastic following in Cumbria, the Ulverston Brass Band  for example were playing in 1850 and the Whitehaven Brass Band dates back to 1857; many other bands that were associated with mines, iron works and temperance societies have come and gone.

Surprisingly it is in the field of "heavy rock music" where Cumbria has led the way; in 1785 Peter Crosthwaite, an eccentric inventor, became interested in the musical properties of the local stone and in 1840 Joseph Richardson created the Skiddaw Stones, a very heavy, eight octave lithophone constructed from 61 tuned and shaped rocks, made from rare hornfels stone. It still exists today in Keswick Museum and may be played by visitors. 

Several other lithophones reside in various museums in the Lake District
and a recording is available of a performance in Kendal Museum.




Piece for Lithophone. Written specifically for a combination of The Musical Stone of Skiddaw and the KendalMuseum Lithophone.

The poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) who was born in the Lake District and lived there for much of his life is credited, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), with launching the Romantic Age in English literature while JMW Turner (1775-1851) and John Constable (1776-1837) did much the same for English art. An important aspect of this movement was the concept of the sublime, a sense of wonder,  which inspired both artists and poets to endeavour to make sense of a world which was both physically and spiritually awesome and unexplained. However it seems to have been left to German composers to write the music typical of the age, such as Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony in 1808 and Mendelssohn's overture, The Hebrides written in 1830, to mention just two.


Ullswater and the Cumbrian Mountains

Very few English composers made any great impact at the time but during the latter part of  the Romantic era exceptions were Hubert Parry (1848-1918) and Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) with the latter being born at Windermere in the Lake District.  One of Somervell's most famous compositions was a cycle of songs setting parts of the poem collection, A Shropshire Lad by A E Houseman, to music but in no way related to the Lake District.  Pastoral music composed by British composers became popular at the end of the 19th / early 20th century and seems to have been inspired by rural subjects and a variety of landscape, little of which was actually English; poetry was also a common stimulus. 


Frederick Delius wrote Into the High Hills (1911) inspired by the Appalachian Mountains of the USA; in 1916, Hubert Parry wrote the music that turned William Blake's poem into the famous and patriotic hymn Jerusalem but the words "England's mountains green" in the poem probably refer to the South Downs of Sussex and while beautiful, these green hills lack the imposing grandeur of Cumbrian mountains. 


John Moeran's Into the Mountains (1921) harks back to his associations with the Irish countryside while Ralph Vaughan Williams cited France, where he served during the First World War, as the setting for A Pastoral Symphony, which was completed in 1922. One of the all time favourite pieces of music from this time is The Lark Ascending which Vaughan Williams wrote in 1914 and which was inspired by the poem by George Meredith.  It is maybe the war-time era, with homesickness, loss and trauma predominating, rather than the place that was in the minds of composers and perhaps the music provided solace rather than exhilaration.

A Graland for John McCabe

Throughout the 20th century various pieces of classical music were composed that were inspired by mountains and lakes such as Richard Strauss Alpine Symphony (1915), Ferd Groffe's Grand Canyon Suite (1931), Vaughan Williams' The Lake in the Mountains (1940) forthe film 49th Parallel and set in Canada, Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring (1944) and Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music (1965).  The Grand Canyon Suite was actually recorded by the so called 'King of Jazz', Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra and released as an album in 1932. An English composer who was inspired by the English Lake District was Armstrong Gibbs who lived there during the Second World War; however his Westmoreland Symphony written in 1944, was as much a symbol of his grief at losing a son fighting in Italy as it was a tribute to the scenery. Gibbs wrote a further short piece for string ensemble called Dale and Fell a few years later.

 In 1949 Maurice Johnstone wrote an orchestral piece called Tarn Hows : A Cumbrian Rhapsody which is perhaps a rather late addition to the collection of English pastoral music but according to reviewer Ian Lace is the highlight of an album called Brian Kay's British Light Music released in 1999. In 1985 John McCabe composed a piece called Cloudcatcher Fells which was to be used as a test piece for brass band competition and had nine sections, each named after a Lake District mountain or tarn (small lake) according to the mood of the music.  Martin Ellerby's tribute to John McCabe, also inspired by the Lake District and called Nocturnes and Dawn (Patterdale) was released only this year on an album called A Garland for John McCabe.




There have been many songs and tunes inspired by mountains but when it comes to jazz, the album by the South African Abdulah Ibrahim and Ekaya called The Mountain, released in 1989, might be the first that comes to mind, the album cover itself is inspirational with a lone figure in an arid landscape studying a distant mountain and Ibrahim's composition is equally compelling, a gentle, soothing melody to promote reflection.


Listen to The Mountain





However, back in the Lake District a Summer International Music Festival, founded in 1985 by Renna Kellaway had been featuring at least one jazz gig in its predominantly classical programme and in 1992 an erstwhile butcher and rock drummer turned vegetarian and impresario called Derek Hook, commissioned a piece of jazz music from pianist John Taylor which became the album Ambleside Days with John Surman on reeds.  This lovely album has eight tracks and much like Cloudcatcher Fells each piece is named after places or aspects of the Lake District. Derek Hook has been promoting jazz in the Lake District ever since and along with a festival in Keswick and clubs in Kendal, contributes to a lively jazz scene in the area.  In 2017, following the sad death of John Taylor, a jazz festival called Ambleside Days was held to commemorate his work and featured many of the musicians who had collaborated with him throughout his life.


John Taylor playing solo piano with three pieces from Ambleside Days.




Another jazz pianist who delighted in England's Green and Pleasant Land was Michael Garrick, who used this name for a piece composed in 2002 for a jazz string quartet and later composed jazz versions of poetry by Browning and Shakespeare in an album called Home Thoughts with Nette Robinson on vocals and Tony Woods on saxophone.  Also definitely in the pastoral jazz mode is a band called the Avalon Trio with Pete Churchill on piano, Tony Woods on reeds and Rob Millett on vibraphone who in 2011 released Forlana with music originally composed by Delius, Finzi and Vaughan Williams.


Tim Garland


Composer and saxophonist Tim Garland is far too young to have participated in the 1960s Canterbury Scene made famous by jazz/rock/folk bands such as Soft Machine and Caravan but he cites this as an influence along with Celtic folk music which he did play in the band Lammas with whom he played from 1989 to 2000.  As well as jazz, rock and folk, Garland had also studied classical composition at the Guildhall School of Music and in 2007 he released an acclaimed album of his own compositions and arrangements of Thelonius Monk tunes called The Mystery played by the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra with himself and Chick Corea providing solos. 


Tim Garland
Photograph by Stefan Booth


Another of Garland's projects is the intriguingly named band Storms/Nocturnes which has Garland on reeds, Joe Locke on vibraphone and Geoffrey Keezer on piano; having recorded two albums in New York, their third called VIA, was recorded at Yewfield near Ambleside in the Lake District in 2010.

The allure of the Lake District is clear as two of the album tracks, both written by Garland, are called Lake of Weathers and Ambleside Nights and Derek Hook is credited with playing crotale, log drums and wind chimes. 




A live performance of Ambleside Nights with Tim Garland, Joe Locke and Geoffrey Keezer.




Garland holds professorships at both the University of Newcastle and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and has surely been inspired by the landscape and coastline of northern England. He has for example released albums featuring lighthouses such as If the Sea Replied (2005), Lighthouse (2011) and the double album Songs to the North Sky (2014); key members of the band are Gwilym Simcock on piano and Asaf Sirkis on drums but each album includes different musicians and on some tracks The Royal Northern Sinfonia Strings. In 2016 Tim Garland's album ONE was voted Jazzwise album of the year featuring Jason Rebello on keys, Ant Law on guitars and Asaf Sirkis on drums, this album is also exceptional in that rather than gaining inspiration from nature as he often has before, Garland has harked back to some of his earlier influences, the Canterbury Scene, Lammas and World music and under the guidance of Sirkis and Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy explored unusual rhythmic patterns; other changes include featuring a vocalist, Dionne Bennett, but not a string orchestra.


The introductory video for One.





Tim Garland's latest album, Weather Walker, does go back to nature, but not just any old nature, finally we have a collection of music that does justice to the landscape that inspired some of England's greatest poets and artists but which for some reason has inspired so little serious music.  Tim Garland's band for Weather Walker has Jason Rebello and Pablo Held on piano, Yuri Goloubev on double bass, Thomas Gould and Magdalena Filipczak on violins; no drums, but the English Session Orchestra led by David Juritz, which to quote Garland "I wanted to show just how rhythmic the string orchestra can be. It is not just sweeping romance and landscape sustained chords! The overall feel of the album is kinda pastoral too, with connections to classical music".


The introductory video to Weather Walker.




Tim Garland Weather Walker album



In the best traditions of pastoral music there are track titles such as The Sigh of the Land that awaken relationships with the countryside; recall the sublime - such as The Sky is an Empty Mirror and Angry Sun, and makes use of a folk song - in this case The Snows They Melt The Soonest (1821) - as a theme that recurs throughout the album. On top of that there is a large string orchestra and the picture on the album cover portrays a beautiful view. 

The music, as you would expect from Tim Garland is beautiful, tracks like Gaia's Clock where Garland solos as a traveller in a mythical Earth evoked by swooping strings and The Lady of the North in which Pablo Held's piano is in a dialogue with Garland's soprano saxophone seemingly soaring like Vaughan William's lark. 

Rugged Land and Angry Sun have the string orchestra demonstrating its rhythmic capabilities while Altitude builds crescendo on crescendo in a classic romantic composition.




Listen to Rugged Land from the album.




Here is the first of four video interviews with Tim Garland about Weather Walker.




Click here for details and samples of the album Weather Walker.

After the overwhelming response to the 2017 Ambleside Days Contemporary Jazz Festival, Derek Hook will be hosting another Festival this year starting on Thursday 30th August and concluding on Sunday 2nd September 2018 presenting the following musicians :

Claire Martin OBE (voice); Thomas Gould (violin); Paul McCandless (saxophones); Tim Garland (saxophones); Asaf Sirkis (drums); Nikki Iles (piano); Jason Rebello (piano); Gwilym Simcock (piano); Mike Walker (guitar); Joe Locke (vibraphone); Alyn Cosker (drums); Martin Berauer (bass); Bernhard Schimpelsberger (percussion); Mark Lockheart (saxophones); Darryl Hall (bass); Yuri Goloubev (bass); John Helliwell (saxophone) plus others.

Click here for details.



Lake District Walkers




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Other pages you might find of interest :

Philip Larkin's Jazz
Free Improvisation - Pyne and Grew
Video Juke Box
Jazz As Art

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