Sixty years on from Stan Getz’s classic album Focus, saxophonist/composer Tim Garland has taken the bold and intriguing step of writing, recording and releasing ReFocus, a reworking for our time. As with Getz’s original release from 1961, Garland takes the idea of ‘jazz with strings’, or ‘symphonic jazz’ if you prefer, revisiting the style and feel of Getz’s groundbreaking album, with (all bar one) new tunes written and performed in the spirit of the original recording.
Getz’s collaboration with composer Eddie Sauter was an important album in so many different ways. “It is not just the spirit of Focus I wished to pay homage to on this album” says Garland, “but the experimental urges of the 1960s that were heard in jazz, film music, and the classical world – fuelled by romanticism and the burgeoning psychedelia of the new decade.”
What is immediately apparent on first listening to Garland’s ReFocus, is the immediacy of the music and the skill with which Garland has truly captured that spirit. Right from the opening bars of the first tune, “I’m Late, I’m Late”, the only piece taken directly from Getz’s original album, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you’re listening to a remastered for the 21st-century version of Getz himself. Garland’s sax sound and the arrangements throughout this new album are totally in keeping with the writing and performance on Focus, yet there is also a very clear freedom of expression and more expansive style in Garland’s excellent compositions. He may be revisiting the strange crossing point of musical trajectories, but anyone familiar with the UK saxophonist’s previous releases will not be too surprised by what they hear, the themes, motifs and writing style providing yet another adventure in Garland’s own accomplished musical history.
ReFocus provides the listener with some memorable, invigorating and enthralling music. Featuring Garland on saxes and piano, Asif Sirkis on drums, Yuri Goloubev on bass, with Chamber Orchestra and additional contributions from John Turville, Adam Kovacs and Ant Law, the tunes are performed with skill and panache. There’s some sublime original music on this album. “Maternal” is thoughtful and reflective, nostalgic yet daringly modernistic. “Thorn in the Evergreen” is refreshingly bold and flamboyant, an adventure to behold, uplifting and melodically effervescent. Some tunes are more obviously inspired by Getz’s album than others, the wonderful “Past Light” and the audacious, incorrigible “Night Flight” being prime examples. A fascinating album overall, Tim Garland once again comes up with the goods and shows just why he is rightly considered as one of Europe’s leading composers and performers.