Relocating - please follow the link for new content

This archive will stay here - but you can find new posts (as well as this archive) at my new website which is at It's the new home for Stuart Eglin Online - including the blog, musings, and details of the publications and services which I have available. Take a look - it's worth a visit!

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

In Praise of Jan Garbarek

OK, it’s a bit of a corny title for this post, but I just couldn’t resist it. I have already done this post once, but the system crashed as I posted it and lost the entry, so I am trying to re-create it from scratch which is a bit of a nightmare for someone with such poor short-term memory.

At the weekend I went with my family to see the Jan Garbarek Group in concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Halls. It was an amazing concert. A review will be the next post to this site. But in the meantime, I thought it would be useful to write a bit about Garbarek’s work over the years.

I heard my first Jan Garbarek album back in 1980. It was ‘Places’, an album recorded with Bill Connors on guitar, John Taylor on organ and piano, and Jack de Johnette on drums. It was the most amazing music I had heard, unlike anything I had experienced at that point. This was music for the heart and soul. It took me a while to figure out that it was the absence of a bass guitar on the album which contributed to its unusual feel.

Since that first listen, I have accumulated some 21 albums by Garbarek, ranging from the frequent trips with his Jan Garbarek Group, which has settled in recent years as Marilyn Mazur on percussion, Eberhard Weber on bass and Rainer Bruninghaus on keyboards and piano. Then there has been Garbarek’s work with various Asian musicians including Zakir Hussain, Trilok Gurtu, Shankar. Work with Anouar Brahem has taken in Arabic music from Tunisia. Singers like Marie Boine and Agnes Buen Garnas have brought Scandinavian folk music into the mix. And finally, the hugely successful collaborations with the Hilliard Ensemble has brought jazz improvisation to the world of classical choral music. Throughout all of this, there is the sure tone and soundscapes that Garbarek has made his own. His growing body of work encompasses all that is Nordic, all that is Scandinavian, north European, and pulls further out to capture the soul of humanity.

His ability to work the tone of his saxophone into the timbre of any of the wide range of other instruments and voices he has worked with, is striking.

I have seen him live three times, and am always struck by his incredible ability, combined with a humility on the stage. His stage presence is quiet and unassuming, but his music is at once passionate, lyrical, and then gentle and yearning.

The latest album, “In Praise of Dreams”, is a beautiful work of understatement. Garbarek works with Kim Kashkashian on viola and Manu Katche on drums for this latest album. His compositions capture beautifully the interplay between viola and saxophone. The melodies are stunning. It’s an album that rewards patience and repeated plays. Having just looked on the ECM Records website (Garbarek’s label for the last 30 years or so), I see that this album has remarkably managed to chart in both Germany and Norway. That’s quite an accomplishment for a jazz album that makes no compromises to popularity. Not only am I listening to this album, but it has also drawn me back to the other albums I have by Garbarek.

Coming next… the review of the concert.

No comments: