Lighthouse Trio – review

Forge and Caponata, London

Economics makes long-term jazz lineups rarities, and opportunities to follow evolving relationships in this open and participatory music don't come that often. Lighthouse is an exception. UK saxophonist and composer Tim Garland formed it to play his own music more than seven years ago, but its young pianist Gwilym Simcock has since emerged as a world-class jazz star, and in the process transformed the dynamics of this trio. Garland, Simcock, and the exciting world-music percussionist Asaf Sirkis played London's Forge & Caponata on their current album launch tour, unleashing fireworks not always apparent on the new release.

Garland's affections for Celtic folk-strains and fast-moving, Latin-inflected jazz (the latter inspired by his years as a Chick Corea sideman) are nowadays enhanced by Simcock's classically underpinned harmonic ingenuity and contrastingly earthy funkiness. Sirkis envelops it all in a percussion soundscape that fuses jazz, north African and Middle Eastern music. The Corea strand quickly surfaced in the whirls and stamps of Garland's flamenco-influenced opener Bajo del Sol. Simcock gradually introduced a Keith Jarrett-like gospel hook to a phrase-swapping dialogue with Garland's soprano sax on the folk-theme Wind on Water, and the skipping theme of Simcock's King Barolo emerged after a chiming Hang-drum intro from Sirkis. Garland's blend of muscularity and vulnerability on slow tenor-sax pieces – one of his greatest strengths – unfolded on the ballad Quiet Now, and Simcock's lateral-thinking erudition joined Samuel Barber harmonies, a driving left-hand hook and bursts of salsa chordwork on Barber Blues.

In the second half, the band sounded even more like the dynamically democratic organism Garland declared it had become. His lively tempo-juggler Above the Sun sparked an exhilarating exchange between Simcock and Sirkis; the tenor-sax lament One Morning swooped over Sirkis's hand-drumming on the gurgling bass udu. Though the uptempo Weathergirls was closer to generic postbop, out of it Simcock wrestled a captivatingly loop-like solo of rising intensity.


John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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