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Jan Garbarek: Rarum: Selected Recordings of Jan Garbarek

AAJ Staff By

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Jan Garbarek's music can be summed up in one simple word: meditation. Sure, the term is loaded with overtones, both good and bad. But do not confuse meditation with mindlessness: they are polar opposites. Garbarek's thirty years with ECM (as a leader and collaborator) have yielded hundreds of melodies which lead to an infinitely light state of inner peace. It's hard to imagine a more positive statement for a saxophone player who long ago decided to forsake flash-and-bang for "simpler" music with understated spiritual energy.

And this two-disc set does Garbarek justice. Each disc runs in chronological order from about 1975 through 1995. The first opens with the starkly plantive "Skrik & Hyl" (with bassist Palle Danielsson), a shrill lament cast skyward with no inhibitions and no regrets. It continues with a couple more dark duets, then opens up into small group interplay. Notable efforts from guitarists John Abercrombie, Bill Frisell, and David Torn endow these pieces with a nice glowing contrast to Garbarek's horn. A few overdubbed solo pieces, each pursuing the modern primitive, offer a sort of purity unique on the set. With closing small group tunes from the '90s, Garbarek shrouds his sound in a cloak of synth air. (As an aesthetic matter, it seems that Garbarek could do much better here if he just sailed free. Directness has always been his strong point, and there's no sense in muting that voice for the sake of atmospherics.)

Onward we flow, right into the second disc with a heap of Keith Jarrett collaborations. It's interesting to note that Garbarek's brief liner notes don't really comment on any musician except for Jarrett. Their shared energy has resulted in some of the very finest music of the '70s. You can toss away Jarrett's crude and misdirected "Windsong" (featuring the odd combination of Garbarek's soprano sax with string orchestra). But with the glowing title track from Jarrett's Belonging, one begins to appreciate the subtlety and nuance these two players develop when they work as a team. Quartet performances of 1977's "My Song" and 1979's "Sunshine Song" coax a softer and warmer angle from the saxophonist, who often dwells in the territory on the dark side of neutral. The highlight of the disc is the wispy but pulsing "Cego Alderaldo" from 1979's collaboration Folk Songs with Egberto Gismonti and Charlie Haden.

In much of his jazz chamber music, Garbarek has adopted a strong Eastern flair. His literacy within the musics of India, Pakistan, and beyond seems completely natural and unforced. The greatest piece on this set, "Raga I," comes from Garbarek's 1990 collaboration with vocalist Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Ragas and Sagas. If you don't have the cash for this outstanding double-disc retrospective, you should strongly consider acquiring that recording instead. It's a true masterpiece—one of the highest pinnacles in the ECM catalog. (Enough said.)

The luminaries: Keith Jarrett, Bill Frisell, Eberhard Weber, Zakir Hussain, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Charlie Haden. The big surprise: Garbarek with orchestra ("Windsong")—time to hit fast forward!

(Note: this two-disc set represents the second volume of :rarum, a series of artist-picked compilations from ECM Records. It comes with notes by the artist as well as extended discographical information.)


Track Listing: CD1: Skrik & Hyl ('75); Viddene ('76); Iskirken ('79); Lillekort ('80); The Path ('81); It's OK to Listen to the Gray Voice ('84); All Those Born With Wings, 3rd Piece ('86); Its Name Is Secret Road ('88); Aichuri, The Song Man ('88); Molde Canticle, Part 1 ('90); Raga I ('90); Twelve Moons ('92); Red Wind ('95). CD2: Windsong ('74); Belonging ('74); Oceanus ('74); My Song ('77); Sunshine Song ('79); Cego Aderaldo ('79); Song For Everyone ('84); Rosensfole ('88); Star ('91); Joron ('92); Parce Mihi Domine ('93).

Personnel: Jan Garbarek: soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, keyboards, percussion; Palle Danielsson: b; Ralph Towner: g; Kyell Johnsen: pipe organ; John Abercrombie: g, mandolin; Nana Vasconcelos: perc; Bill Frisell: g; Eberhard Weber: b; John Christensen: d; David Torn: g; Michael DiPasqua: d; Rainer Br

Title: Rarum: Selected Recordings of Jan Garbarek | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: ECM Records


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