Songs to the North Sky

Tim Garland‘s work explores the question of how to make jazz processes understandable to a non-jazz audience.

Through-composed orchestral writing is fused with jazz improvisation in ways which break both with conventional jazz forms and the classical concerto format, while the solo voice is a saxophone accompanied by two percussionists who mirror respectively the jazz and classical facets of the soloist’s voice: one fully notated, the other improvising, set within a 30-piece string orchestra.

The five instrumental ‘songs’ are lyrical melodies with supporting functional harmony, while the variations plunder elements (often not the most obvious) from the songs to create new, more abstracted pieces from them, with sections left open for the soloist(s) to expand upon.

Thus it is a deliberate constraining factor in this work that the ’songs’ remain concise, eschewing much tangential exploration. Here, jazz music’s habitual reconstruction and reinvention of material is structured in the most accessible way possible: the high degree of importance given to melody and familiar modes of repetition, and the lush and cinematic orchestral textures are signals that this is approachable music.

The variations radically depart from the original song and enter more challenging territory; they are self-contained musical cells, the listener’s expectation is focused on the reworking and transformation of small motifs, while the freedom allowed the soloists allows each successive performance to be unique.

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