Re-stringing the Lyre

Poets were singers long before they were writers. Re-stringing the Lyre is a new CD label that aims to renew the ancient partnership between poetry and music. The first recording is In All My Holy Mountain, a major new work scored for the John Williams Octet.

A flute plays over two bass clarinets and brings in “the luminous shadow of an Atlantic calm…” Trumpet and accordion turn a wedding breakfast into a gentle dance, “such bright music of silver on china they might have been at table in the halls of heaven…” A poet echoes an ancient Welsh lament for men lost in battle and the cries of the hunt rise around him, the drums wild “with the heel-springs of the deer…”

In All My Holy Mountain tells the story of the novelist Mary Webb and reaches its climax with Gone to Earth, which she wrote during the First World War. Nikki Iles’s atmospheric score is the perfect counterpart to Roger Garfitt’s poems, taking elements from the English folk tradition and giving them a powerful new jazz identity. She continually varies the texture so that sometimes his voice is heard against the rhythm section, sometimes against a solo instrument, and often against the whole band as it rises to the words and takes flight. Nikki Iles has done much more than set the poems: she has created a jazz suite in six movements, a compelling score that clearly fires the band and draws the best from some of our finest soloists.

Two of the tunes from In All My Holy Mountain will already be familiar to the jazz audience because Nikki Iles rescored them for smaller groups and frequently performs them on tour. Westerly is the title track of Nikki’s 2015 CD with The Printmakers and has become a contemporary jazz standard. In All My Holy Mountain is a chance to hear the music as it was originally conceived and relish the rich sound palette Nikki was able to achieve as she wrote for a highly accomplished octet whose members all double and even treble on other instruments. In All My Holy Mountain is a landmark recording, the most ambitious work in Poetry & Jazz undertaken in these islands since Christopher Logue’s Red Bird with Tony Kinsey.

It was released on February 23rd 2017 and retails at £10.00 (post free in the UK. Overseas, add £2.50 p&p). To obtain a copy please send a cheque (made out to Roger Garfitt) to Roger Garfitt, Ladywell, Bettws-y-Crwyn, Craven Arms, SY7 8PH or email r.garfitt@btinternet.com to pay by bank transfer or Paypal and give your postal address. The CD will come by Royal Mail, first class.

Roger Garfitt               Poet

John Williams              Director, baritone sax, bass clarinet and recorder

Dick Pearce                 trumpet and flugelhorn

Pete Hurt                     alto and soprano sax, bass clarinet

Bob Sydor                    tenor sax (1, 2) and flute

Karen Sharp                tenor sax (1 solo, 3-6) and clarinet

Nikki Iles                      Composer, piano and accordion

Dave Warren             guitar and violin

Tom Mark                   bass

Trevor Tomkins           drums and percussion

“Powerful poetry laced with jazz… an imaginative and illuminating addition to the genre.”


“This poetry and jazz session comes as a welcome surprise…. all the joie de vivre that is typical of Iles’s compositions…..The compositions throughout are characterised by warmth and vitality and are embellished by the piquancy of Garfitt’s spoken words, adding a literary perspective rarely found in jazz these days”


 “An original and inspiring work”
“A hugely satisfying and richly evocative piece of work”
“A beautiful album which draws you in with intriguing poetry and luscious composition.”

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