Tuesday, January 03, 2006
JAN GARBAREK/BOBO STENSON QUARTET
2. Skrik and Hyl
4. Til Vennene
Jan Garbarek; saxophones
Bobo Stenson; piano
Palle Danielsson; bass
Jon Christensen; drums
Recorded in 1975, this album sees the Norwegian hornman (and the ECM label) at a junction. Prior to this for Garbarek were such Ayler/Coltrane influenced albums as the unsettling 'Triptykon', to follow were a slew of new-age easy listening records, with 1976's 'Dis' being a prime example. Here, though, Garbarek finds the middle ground betwen these extremes and presents an album of inventive jazz that's also accessible and easy on the ear.
Recorded in partnership with the great Norwegian pianist Bobo Stenson, this is as much Stenson's album as it is Garbarek's; perhaps it is this influence that gives the recording it's character. Lead track 'Dansere' sums up what the album is all about. It opens with Garbarek's soprano trills, sounding uncannily familiar to Coltrane's work on that instrument. I'm reminded, for some reason, of the opening to 'A Love Supreme' - that's the kind of exalted company this record keeps, in my opinion.
The theme, with it's variations on an arpeggiated line is stated as Stenson provides a backdrop that is at once an aid to Garbarek's horn and a melody in it's own right. Stenson is melodic throughout, even when the music is at it's most searching. The rhythm section takes it's lead from Stenson, providing creativity and support simultaneously. As the piece progresses, Stenson begins to exert his influence more strongly, until at around 6 minutes his is the only voice heard. This allows him to state a new theme, one with more rhythmic impetus that what's come before. Soon the rest of the band fall in, and we're into much more conventional territory. Stenson recedes a little, although is still a strong presence behind Garbarek's impassioned wailing.
The bass of Palle Danielsson is heard prominently here too, and provides strong support to Stenson's and Garbarek's increasingly wild flights of imagination. Danielsson also exhibits a strong melodic sensibility, trading places with Garbarek and spending some time as lead soloist with the hornman comping on the theme in the background. Danielsson's solo really mars the end of the piece, with the theme returning for a short time prior to things being wound up.
The track leaves an impression of great beauty with the listener, helped in no small part by the typically excellent recording quality of the release. The other tracks do pale a little in comparison to 'Dansere' but they fall into two main categories - more of the same, and some of those wonderfully drifiting pieces that crop up from time to time on ECM - those where bass and drums are prominent, but not in their ususal role of providing a propulsive beat. Instead they are played as solo instruments, providing layers of sound to the piece and giving an impression of formlessness which, at it's best, can sound liberating.
Wikipedia has a brief biography of Garbarek and an even briefer one on Bobo Stenson. Aside from the occasional discography there's not a lot of information about Garbarek on the web, although this review of his 'selected recordings' album from allaboutjazz.com gives a good impression of what his music is all about.