It’s hard to disagree with the companion press release, which suggests that “Rites” is a World Music effort. Jan Garbarek explores his “rites of passages” and takes us on a journey that shadows Garbarek’s personal observations and life experiences. Here, Garbarek expands upon his 1996 ECM release “Visible World” with clearer output and perhaps a more refined production. Upon its release, “Visible World” was criticized by some for being too commercial or perhaps leaning toward an “Adult Contemporary” (New Age) market.
This two CD set “Rites” was released several months ago in Europe and has reportedly sold somewhere near a million copies and this writer suspects it will do well here in the States. Jan Garbarek gained notoriety with Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet over three decades ago and appeared on the classic Jarrett release “My Song” which was a showcase for Garbarek’s now infamous “plaintive cry” style of play. Garbarek’s vibrato-less attack coupled with his soaring melodic and thematic development opened eyes and ears for jazz lovers. Garbarek has also collaborated or has been solely responsible for such classics as “Arbour Zena” with Jarrett, Charlie Haden and a Symphony Orchestra or his mid-1980’s Trio release “Star” with Miroslav Vitous and Peter Erskine. In the 1990’s Garbarek turned the tables a bit and discovered a backbeat with the addition of solid rock drummer Manu Katche’. This provided an element of surprise for long time Garbarek enthusiasts and spawned a new er! a for Garbarek’s creative juices. Let it be stated. There is only one Jan Garbarek! A true visionary and class act. “Rites” is a welcome edition to the ever-expansive Garbarek discography. Lush melodies and pensive as one might expect; however, the overall tone is bright and imperious. Garbarek continues to impress while opening his heart to all that care to listen.
The opener and title cut on disk 1 is an ethereal, ambient affair supported by a backwash of low key harmonious synths and steady, determined rhythms by Marilyn Mazur. Garbarek enters with a slow, deliberate yet mysterious soprano sax passage. The journey has begun. “Where The Rivers Meet” contains yet another haunting melody, featuring Garbarek’s trademark “reaching for the stars” signature style. A remake and title cut of Garbarek’s 1984 release “It’s Ok To Listen To The Gray Voice” is given more emphatic treatment. On Disk 2, “It’s High Time” features driving rhythms while Garbarek utilizes the high register. This is a feel good tune with plenty of pizzazz. Images of a rounding up the troops or perhaps as an inspirational uplift for a Soccer team prevail. On “Pan” Garbarek’s sweet tenor sax stylization’s develop the melody in linear fashion. The accompaniment is flawless. Pianist Rainer Bruninghaus, bassist Eberhard Weber and percussionist Marilyn Mazur unde! rstand Garbarek’s plight. No one performs out of place here and throughout. The subtleties although somewhat concentrated and austere at times give the appearance that this project was not slapped together in a few days. “We Are The Stars” is Spiritual in content and features the angelic choruses from the “Boys From The Choir Solvguttene”. Depending on your mood at the time, you may shed a tear or two. “We Are The Stars” is stunning and thought provoking. A well-rounded and perfectly arranged conglomeration among contributing forces. “The Moon Over Mtatsminda” features the vocals of Jansug Kakhidze while backed by the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra. Kakhidze who also Conducts this Orchestra on a regular basis, vocalizes with plea and passion. This tune emits a feeling of praise or triumph or as if he were singing religious text.
Garbarek delivers with aplomb, insight and perhaps gratitude. “Rites” is a joyous celebration and one of the early surprises of 1999. However one wonders why BMG is selling this at a list price of $33? 98 minutes of music accounts for about 20 minutes over the limit for a single CD. In these days when multiple CD sets are being sold at reduced prices, this seems a bit exorbitant; however, this writer has seen “Rites” discounted via various online mail order houses. Perhaps an unjustifiable complaint without understanding the economics involved but the good news is, “Rites” is a remarkable effort from one of this World’s musical treasures. Highly Recommended.
Jan Garbarek; Soprano, Tenor Saxes; Synthesizers; Samplers; Percussion: Rainer Bruninghaus: Piano; Keyboard: Eberhard Weber; Bass: Marilyn Mazur; Drums; Percussion: Jansug Kakhidze; Singer and Conductor Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra: Bugge Wesseltoft; Synthesizers, Electronic Effects; Accordian: Boys From The Choir Solvguttene.