This sprawling new double CD by Jan Garbarek is an apotheosis of the vision and approach he has pursued more or less single-mindedly for almost thirty years now. Virtually all the roads he has visited in the past are revisited, in one way or another, here, and in as crisply competent and subtly virtuosic a fashion as ever.
As usual, Garbarek's masterful playing is the central element that commands attention. His soprano playing on the cheerful, upbeat, jazzy "Her Wild Ways" is as fine a command of the instrument as you'll find anywhere this side of Steve Lacy. Don Cherry's Codona piece "Malinye," meanwhile, proves that this man is an utter master of the soprano. Those two tracks, along with the anthemic, driving, keening "It's High Time," demonstrate an often-overlooked ability by Garbarek to work in more up-tempo settings than he has generally preferred in the last few years.
The world beats enter gracefully in tracks like "Song, Tread Lightly" and "One Ying for Every Yang," among others, and the boys from the choir Salvguttene lend an ethereal quality to "We Are the Stars." Georgian singer Jansug Kakhidze adds an earthier texture to "The Moon Over Mtatsminda."
Rites is a huge effort. It rewards repeated listenings and is large enough to get inside and stay awhile. Even if Garbarek's cottony approach is not precisely to your taste, all jazz fans should savor his tremendous tone on both tenor and soprano, and marvel at his breathtaking instrumental command and control. Highly recommended.