press and review
w/Wynton Marsalis, Barbican Hall London 2008
"...A guest appearance by British violinist Christian Garrick was a fillip for the 1920s hit Dardanella and Ellington's Mood Indigo, with Marsalis muttering "Sorry to see him go" after an exquisite run of melodic diversions, blues trills and an inquisitive pizzicato farewell on the latter."
"...Guests and soloists from within the orchestra added spice. Violinist Christian Garrick expanded the delicacy of Ellington's "Mood Indigo"...”
"...The Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra's version of Mood Indigo was actually plainer than the Ellington's famous 1930 recording, but the balance of clarinettist Victor Goines, trombonist Chris Crenshaw and guest violinist Christian Garrick was so perfect who could complain?.."
Chris Garrick and the Budapest Cafe Orchestra at Eden Court, Inverness, June 2015.
Who would have thought, a quartet made up of three suits, one waistcoat and two lampshades would provide such a diversity of outstanding entertainment and musicianship. I’m referring to the Budapest Cafe Orchestra (BCO) led by Chris Garrick violin, Eddie Hession button accordion, Adrian Zolotuhin guitar, domra, saz and Kelly Cantlon double bass. This is my first time at a BCO gig, clearly not so for the canny folks of Inverness here at the impressive Eden Court Theatre, seats are filling fast.
Upon its refurbishment in 2007 Eden Court has became a landmark for theatre goers across the Highlands of Scotlandia. Designed by Law Dunbar and Naismith, the stepped tiered seating plan is set against a backdrop of red paneling. The steel hanging cables with steel platforms each side of the stage add a feeling of strength and physicality to the building.
From the start BCO’s format is a winning formula for the audience. Their style incorporates a mix of Eastern European waltzes and Russian exuberance stemming from a mythical kingdom in deepest Harringaria. Playing a selection of their own compositions mixed with more easily recognisable pieces, the set is goulashed together with humorous interplay between the quartet, resulting in a constant menu of humour and entertainment.
However this is the real surprise: The musicianship is world class.
Some of the comic greats are known to have practised routines over and over again to make sure their “mistakes” were executed without error. When Garrick’s violin jousts with Hession on button accordion and Zolotuhin on guitar, following and matching their scale challenges I’m pondering: How many hours of practise have been worked to make sure the timing is spot on, making this a “how did they do that?” type spectacle ? We are watching extremely skilled musicians at work and play here. No doubt they are enjoying themselves. You can’t kid an audience, well not for a whole show.
The Greek composition “Misirlou” which gained worldwide notoriety when Quentin Tarantino used the piece in his film Pulp Fiction, is a particular favourite of the gathered Inverness faithful. BCO dip into their 2013 album “Lacrimoso” taking down the pace with a selection of slower melodies. BCO have been touring the Highlands and Islands each summer since 2011 to an ever increasing fan base. This gig is part of the Big Tour of Scotlandia 2015. Bonkers, but quaint. When Garrick introduces a medley from the album/opus “The Gaelic Chronicles” the folks seated in the Highlands capital break into an appreciative round of applause.
Although humour and entertainment is clearly paramount when attending a BCO gig, the musicianship never takes second place. It’s a fine balance but the boys from Harringaria execute the task with assured aplomb. Greigs Squeeze box Concerto, a smattering of Stephane Grappelli, film scores, solo riffs which demonstrate the vast array of talent on stage. Whilst Garrick’s violin virtuosity is a joy to behold, his three colleagues show they are masters of their instruments when allowed to let rip, as they often do during their solo spots.
There is no doubt this audience would have BCO play for another hour, but it’s encore time. A Shetland lullaby slows down proceeding once again. Have no fear BCO know how to leave a crowd wanting more. With much hand clapping foot stomping and a few cries of encouragement, Garricks bow dashes and darts across the violin strings as a frenzied finale is played out to a delighted audience.
Garrick agrees to an interview when back in Englandia (see he’s got me at it now!) for towns and village halls await as their tour rolls on through Scotlandia. Although he’s on time he apologies for looking a little ruffled. “I’ve been at Wimbledon this morning” Not watching the tennis, just entertaining early visitors at the Pimm’s tents.
Garrick’s priority is water, followed by coffee. He’s relaxed, time hasn’t begun to assault his youthful features. He carries an easy manner when in conversation. I begin by asking Garrick when setting up the yearly tours what are BCO trying to bring to their ever increasing following? “We enjoy playing the music, our respective training allows differing pieces to be played. It also means we don’t get stuck in playing jazz, or classical we mix it up, ideally there is something in our performances everyone enjoys” he enthuses. Garrick graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1994. He became the first jazz violinist to be awarded the accolade, DipRAM. Johnny Dankworth said of Garrick “He could emerge as one of the greatest jazz violinists of all time” His peers Nigel Kennedy and Joshua Bell have openly quoted their admiration of Garricks violin skills. I’m intrigued why he hasn’t followed the route of classical violinist? “It was never for me. It’s too rigid playing the same pieces to such an exacting standard. It works for some people, for example Nigel Kennedy he has the technical ability and work ethic to practice every day. I wanted to explore my own music, my own arrangements”.
Since the age of five Garrick has been playing violin “Those early years I didn’t enjoy the experience. I wanted to get out and play football. It was a struggle right up to being 16. Only when I first heard Jascha Heifetz play, my relationship with the violin changed. I wanted to play the music he played, make it sound like he did. I began to work really hard at it rather than merely doing the bare minimum. On the subject of practise he tells me “These days it is maintenance really, not a full-blown practise regime, that is my daily pattern.” Thankfully he explains “maintenance” instead of me asking from which album was that taken? “Maintenance differs from practise. Maintenance is to keep the physical side together - all the muscles and little tendons et al - to keep them in check so I’m ready go and deliver what is required on any given day. It comprises around 20 minutes of slow, deliberate, measured and patient playing aiming at muscular freedom and tone. I’m changing styles and working in so many different settings I sometimes need to reacquaint myself with particular pieces or disciplines required and/or come to terms with new music. That’s where practise comes in.”
Garrick is an outstanding violinist, but just how good is he I ask. “You’ve seen me play” he replies. Maybe it’s the way I phrased the question, I go again explaining I'm not a musician, I know what I like, but how good is that drummer, or pianist, in some cases I’m not sure. Hence the reason I ask where he ranks himself in terms of ability. “If people enjoy what they hear, isn’t that the main thing? he knocks it back to me (15-love). I tell him “You are probably one of the best violinist in the UK at this time” I wait for him to nod in agreement, instead he waits for the rest of my question “So don’t you want an audience who have knowledge on the technicalities and skill being played out before them? (15 all) “There isn’t any better feeling than playing music you want to play with a full piece band or orchestra. But to play your own arrangements, to have created a composition and play in front of audiences as I do over the world. I’m fortunate in being able to cross over from so many different musical styles. I want audiences to enjoy the music they’ve come to hear. It’s really that simple” Game set and match Garrick.
Although Garrick has released six solo albums to critical acclaim. “Different Strokes” was described by The Sunday Times as “The outstanding British album of the year” it’s BCO which has allowed him the freedom to cross over styles and develop his own scores. “I’m really proud on how we’ve developed and built a fanbase over the years, now playing to full venues on our tours. I think we are onto our seventh album, yes seven, “The Gaelic Chronicles” being our latest release earlier this year. We have plans to play more gigs, larger venues and engage with younger audiences more and more. BCO doesn’t cover an age range, depending on the venue it really can be an audience from 16 to infinite years old. We have talked about Festivals as well.” He also has solo plans. Unfinished business as he describes one of the ideas.
“To some degree I’ve stepped back from playing jazz over the years. I’m in discussions with a variety of peopletrying to work out how to set up the right jazz format. My long-running small group has recently been developing a set of 70’s flavoured stuff with tunes from Moog, Wonder, Hancock, Gabriel, Corea and Pastorius - I’m a 70’s product after all - so that is something I am fast-tracking to the studio. I’ve harboured a dirty dark desire to make a bebop album for ages because I love the music of Bird and Bud Powell so much so we’ll see if we can bring that one together too. Onto teaching I am looking forward to our continuing quest to broaden the strings curriculum at the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music and at the Guildhall to embrace playing styles beyond classical. They’ve been much more open minded about this in the US but we’re inching closer and It is very exciting being at the pointy end of this.”
It’s interesting talking to Garrick about future plans as he has a multitude of directions he and his bow could explore. He told me during his childhood years he deemed himself as lazy. Those days are long gone. Owen Peters for Penny Black July 2015
Men On Wire, Ronnie Scott's London 2011
"Quite how Chris Garrick and John Etheridge create such an astonishing range of sounds from the basic format of violin/guitar duo remains a mystery. The result, however, is a feast for the ears, as the pair express material drawn from a range of often unexpected sources in a manner which explores every nuance and subtlety to the full. Who would have thought that a corny Country & Western warhorse might turn up on a jazz gig, but their interpretation of 'Tennessee Waltz' revealed an aching pathos to the song which had previously lain hidden.
In a trice, the duo could switch from the haunting qualities of Peter Gabriel's 'Mercy Street' to the colour and excitement of a South African township in Abdullah Ibrahim's 'Msunduza', the gentle swing of the Hot Club of France with 'Let's Fall in Love' and 'Undecided', evoke the Brazilian rainforest with Luiz Bonfa's 'Gentle Rain', or bring the house down with laughter with an hilarious 'Blue Moon'; the violin sounding like the wheezing of a tobacco addict on his first cigarette of the day.
Great music! But for this listener, the standout performance of the set came with the final number, Ennio Morricone's bitter-sweet theme to Cinema Paradiso."
"Guitarist John Etheridge and violinist Chris Garrick touched on Brazilian music, the Gaelic fringe and gypsy jazz. There was a Pat Metheny cover, an aching 'Tennessee Waltz' and Abdullah Ibrahim's 'Msunduza'. Etheridge is an all-styles perfectionist, but it is the violinist who really gets under the emotive skin of the music. He captures the lilt of classic jazz violin and adds high-energy picks, strums and scrapes to forge a trademark style."
Mike Hobart, FT
Chris Garrick Group, Taliesin Arts Centre Swansea 2006
"The very first music event that I reviewed at Taliesin - John Etheridge's tribute to Stephane Grappelli - featured a young violinist called Chris Garrick, whose dexterity and versatility was astounding.
Garrick has since become a Taliesin favourite, and this visit proved to be his most thrillingly effective to date. Appearing here with David Gordon(keyboards), Tom Hooper(drums), Ole Rasmussen(bass), Neil Craig(tabla and percussion)and Eddie Hession(accordion), this deceptively self-effacing character treated his audience to some of the most exciting modern jazz compositions to have graced the venue for some time - most of which had been penned by Garrick himself.
The presence of an accordion - usually associated either with French movie soundtracks or the theme from Captain Pugwash - lent itself brilliantly to some beautifully dark and emotional pieces which took their inspiration from Argentinian tango music, while some of the more energetic and percussion-driven works exploited the venue's unrivalled acoustic quality to the full.
The offbeat nature of some of the compositions was underlined by their mischievous titles, including The Alchemist and the Catflap and This is Not a Chemistry Experiment, and served to reinforce the youthful intelligence of the performers and their refreshingly casual stage presentation.
A triumphant return to Swansea for a man who has to rate as one of the finest jazz musicians of his generation."