A welcome return to the ECM catalog for three of the most striking of the early recordings which Jan Garbarek made for the label in the 1970s. In different but related ways Sart (1971), Witchi-Tai-To (1973) and Dansere (1975) brought freshly intelligent and invigorating perspective to bear on questions of dynamics, group sound, interaction and swing, the relation of improvisation and abstraction to the roots of jazz, and the relevance of archetypal yet freshly inflected folk forms to contemporary music. Two ensembles are heard here – Garbarek/Stenson/Rypdal/Andersen/Christensen on the exploratory Sart, and the spirited Jan Garbarek-Bobo Stenson Quartet, one of the most exciting groups of the era.
Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek took several intriguing stylistic turns early in his career, none more extreme than that shown on Triptykon. While he had always shown an affinity for the work of Albert Ayler and other free jazz musicians who came of age in the '60s, his prior albums retained a more straight-ahead rhythmic drive and more than a passing nod to experimental rock and fusion. Here, he jettisoned guitarist Terje Rypdal and replaced the sometimes overly delicate percussion work of Jon Christensen with the more earthy and heavy sounding Edward Vesala. The result is an expressionist trio drawing on both free improvisation and Scandinavian folk tunes, roaring, stumbling, and reeling, evoking an aural equivalent of Edvard Munch.
A fascinating set from three strong and contrasting musical personalities: Norwegian saxophonist, Brazilian guitarist-pianist, and US bassist making purposeful and creative music together on this previously unreleased live recording. “Carta de Amor” documents music captured at Munich’s Amerika Haus in April, 1981. Two years on from the much-loved albums “Magico” (ECM 1151) and “Folk Songs” (ECM 1170), the trio’s improvisational empathy and sensibilities were further honed by experiences as a touring group. Repertoire includes five pieces from Gismonti’s pen, with the title track heard in two variations, opening and closing this enthralling double album.
It's been six years since these same performers got together to create one of the decade's more unusual experiments in musical alchemy. Beginning with the raw materials of early music and modern jazz, the four male voices of the Hilliard Ensemble joined with jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek to see what would happen when the proper measure of old music and new style were combined, shaped by the performers' considerable experience and collective aesthetic vision.
Jan Garbarek is, of course, one of ECM’s longest standing composers and saxophonists, yet he is first and foremost a spectacular improviser who often manages to reach farther than (I imagine) even his own expectations in touching new melodic concepts. Paired with the Spheres-like church organ of Kjell Johnsen, he plumbs the depths of spiritual and physical awareness in a way that few of his albums have since. Here more than anywhere else, he shapes reverberation into its own spiritualism, exploring every curve of his surrounding architecture, every carved piece of wood and masonry.
One of the better ECM recordings, this collaboration by bassist Charlie Haden, Jan Garbarek on tenor and soprano, and Egberto Gismonti (switching between guitar and piano) is filled with moody originals, improvisations that blend together jazz and world music, and atmospheric ensembles.