How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The late night radio escapades of the '80s introduced the instrumental music style dubbed New Age, which demonstrated a different path from the over-commercialized contemporary scene, yet also appealed to audiences who desired more creative, meditative, and structured music. Groups such as Tangerine Dream and pianist George Winston filled the airwaves with an assorted mix of electronic/acoustic and urban/rural sounds, putting out highly composed recordings that are still popular today. The new release In Praise of Dreams by Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek fits this mold with music that is thoughtful and well executed.
Also featuring Kim Kashkashian on viola and Manu Katché on drums, the music holds an aesthetic quality that soothes yet holds the listener's attention with hypnotic syncopations and memorable compositions. The use of electronic instrumentation is evident but never overshadows as the trio add the essential human touch with skillful playing balanced with technique and spirit.
The music takes the listener on an assortment of soundscapes, ranging from the Celtic-influenced title song and the exotic drums of "Knot of Place and Time" to the surreal setting of "Scene from Afar." The addition of classical viola gives the music breadth that plays out well against Garbarek's musical ideas on pieces like "Iceburn" and the spellbinding "Cloud of Unknowing," where the viola and drums perform a circuitous dance with a Middle Eastern aura which proves that this is not your typical New Age recording.
Track Listing: As Seen from Above; In Praise of Dreams; One Goes There Alone; Knot of Place and Time; If You Go Far Enough; Scene from Afar; Cloud of Unknowing; Without Visible Sign; Iceburn; Conversation with a Stone; A Tale Begun.
Personnel: Jan Garbarek (tenor and soprano saxophones, synthesizers, samplers, percussion, Kim Kashkashian (viola on all but "As Seen from Above," "If You Go Far Enough," "A Tale Begun"), Manu Katché (drums on "As Seen from Above," "One Goes There Alone," "Knot of Place and Time," "Scene from Afar," "Iceburn," "Conversation with a Stone") .