Oh! J.G.

Oh! Jan Garbarek, the versatile, cross genre saxophonist. He’s played with the likes of Keith Jarrett, George Russell, Trilok Gurtu and the Hilliard Ensemble. His own albums straddle a water splashed chalk line between jazz and new age. With a unique style of improvisation and tone matched only by his unmatched intensity, he’s got an arresting ability to blow into a single note a deep visceral energy, a ferocity untouched by any other artist. Inside one simple sustained tone he tells us stories of travels from the known world into the mystic regions of a mirror universe. Every time I listen to him play I’m taken aback by his uncanny mastery over pure sound.

And that brings me to In Praise of Dreams, the title of Garbarek’s ECM recording from 2004 with Kim Kashkashian on viola and Manu Katché on drums. It’s a dreamscape of acoustic, synth, samples, and loops layered together to form a musical trifle of existential beauty. This album is of a calibre few ever achieve. It could possibly qualify as a desert island recording.

There’s only one thing to criticize : the development of his musical ideas. Most cuts drop off just when you feel they’re taking you to a new space; so close, yet so far away. It’s a shame. This would have been a triple A recording. Despite this disappointment, I won’t take back any of the initial praise. It’s worthy of every word and worthy of deep listening. Kashkashian and Katché are on equal footing with Garbarek. Kashkashian with his rich woody tone and Katché with his instinctive sense of musicality over metronomic time. They’re not insignificant accompanists; they see his dreams and raise them. The three together reach escape velocity.

(||) Rating — Music : B ║ Performance : A+ ║ Recording : A ║ In Praise of Dreams, Jan Garbarek, ECM, © 2004

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