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Keith Loxam's tribute to Michael Garrick

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 17:05 UK Time, Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Picture of Michael Garrick by Sisi Burn

Michael Garrick. Photo by Sisi Burn

Radio 3 jazz producer Keith Loxam pays tribute to Michael Garrick, who died on 11 November

I first met Michael in 1970 when I was a young producer. It was a jazz night at Hull University and he was performing with Norma Winstone. That unique piano style caught my ear and his effortless accompaniment with Norma really excited me.

A few years later I met him again,  this time with my own band at the Stephen Joseph Theatre-in-the-round in Scarborough. Frankly, my Hammond organ and keyboard techniques were trounced by his solo piano set and it made me sit up and take more notice of style and interpretation.

Moving many years on, when I become producer of Jazz Line-Up in 2000, he was one of my first calls when setting up sessions. I recall taking the programme to the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, I wanted him to direct the BBC Big Band and perform some items from his 'Jazz Praises' pad.  One weekday afternoon, before the festival, we attended the Cathedral to begin mustering up a chorus and for Michael to try out the organ.  After a few sweet licks on the pipe organ, visitors to the impressive building gathered in some numbers, to ask first who was playing and secondly when they could hear more. A couple of months later the concert filled the nave of the Cathedral and it was difficult to get Michael off the set. He would have kept the band playing all night if he could, such was his enthusiasm.

I also recall re creating his 60s sextet to celebrate his 75th Birthday.  Such was Michael’s emotion, he choked on his words when introducing Don Rendell to perform 'Dusk Fire' with him - a moment I will remember for ever.

Only in 2010 did we return to Maida Vale to celebrate his 50th year in broadcasting - this time with his Big Band.  Again that seemingly endless pad brought us more astonishing Big Band arrangements totally unique to him, even his conducting style was individual to him and he took us through ‘Cuban Missile’, ‘First Born’, ‘Bitter Sweet Jazz’ and ‘Aurian Wood’, to name but a few.

On the 19th December this year, he was to have once again directed his own Big Band for his tone poem 'Peter Pan' - to be broadcast on the Christmas Day.  The recording will go ahead with his son Gabriel directing the band, but as to who will play the piano ...??   It will be the most difficult decision I have ever had to make and I would think the most demanding gig for any genius to perform.

I will truly miss Michael.

 

Find out more about Michael Garrick and listen to Alyn Shipton's Jazz Library broadcast on MIchael

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