NICK GARBETT QUINTET
Old 505 Theatre, February 6
Finding it on a map demands heavy use of the zoom function. The remote Italian island of Lampedusa lurks about half way between Malta and Tunisia – so nowhere near Sicily, let alone the main boot. But that’s where trumpeter/composer Nick Garbett recently lived for 16 months, and the music for his new quintet and Lontano album marinated in that experience.
This was most vivid on the title track. Fluffy-edged, electronically treated solo trumpet preceded an ensemble of such gentle translucence that it would not be too much of a stretch to describe the music, made by Garbett, alto saxophonist Peter Farrar, pianist Daniel Pliner, bassist Jonathan Zwartz and drummer James Waples, as turquoise-coloured. Garbett’s improvisation against the ensemble both focused and abstracted, while Farrar’s jettisoned all sense of a note having any attack, so the sound seemed to materialise, hovering, buzzing and fluttering with vibrato. In the context of Farrar’s lines and harmonies, this wide, sweetly old-fashioned vibrato was as improbable as a kitsch element in a Jackson Pollack painting, and yet it worked, and made you wish more reed players still used vibrato the way the jazz pioneers did, because it made their lines ache with pathos.
This combination of treated trumpet and vibrato-embroidered alto reappeared on Lampedusa to make music that was at peace with itself, contrasting with the groove-driven Bendalong, where Farrar’s vibrato now compounded an edgy intensity. The compositionally less interesting, skimming post-bop of Rabbit Island was distinguished by Zwartz shaping endless melodic nuances into his bass solo without relinquishing the drive. For Wal’s Peace Pliner dampened the piano strings, while Waples built a groove by striking little bells lying on his floor-tom, and when the horns entered they were fleecy and muted, like the sky just before sunrise. As with most of the material, this engendered a softer, romantic side to the playing of Garbett, Pliner and Farrar – until the latter introduced multiphonics, and the effect was as eerie as a graveyard at 3am.