Made By Walking
Tenor and soprano saxophonist Tim Garland has displayed solid, if unexceptional, abilities during his relatively brief time with Chick Corea's Origin. But he's far more inspired and inventive on his debut disc as a leader, which revolves around the concept of aural snapshots by Garland spotlighting historical figures he admires. This list includes Josephine Baker, Rosa Parks and Pablo Neruda, but thankfully things aren't so somber or pious that the session lacks heart or soul. Some credit for this goes to an exceptional supporting cast that includes Corea, who adds sterling support on "Gentle Nemesis" and "Good Morning Heartache," plus outstanding solos and ensemble contributions from Joe Locke on vibes and/or five-octave concert marimba and crotales. Pianist Geoff Keezer appears on the nine other compositions sans Corea. By his past standards, Keezer surprisingly doesn't display much drive or imagination, but he does supply adequate fills and solos.
Still, it's Garland who deserves the most praise for the disc's rating more than a passing listen. He not only has the requisite bright sound and full tone, but also avoids both funk and pop cliches and the urge to simply scream or honk when all else fails. His melody playing on "Emergence," "Pablo" and "Trinity" not only nicely establish the mood, but also make the song resonate and leave you anxious to hear what's coming next.
Even more disposable tunes like "Flicks!" and "Dark Horse" are played with passion and exuberance, despite their minimal musical structures. Garland even incorporates some unusual musical guests: Rony Barrak adds entertaining flourishes to "Evil Cradling" on darbourka, while Karen Street's accordion lines give "Pablo" extra Latin flavor.
While some of this date's content will be directed toward smooth-jazz stations, Garland hasn't toned down his approach nor deliberately scaled back the music. This is a good, occasionally outstanding, date that suggests Garland is an improviser to watch.