Jan Garbarek Quartet: Afric Pepperbird (ECM 1007)

1007

Jan Garbarek Quartet
Afric Pepperbird

Jan Garbarek tenor and bass saxophones, clarinet, flutes, percussion
Terje Rypdal guitar, bugle
Arild Andersen bass, african thumb piano, xylophone
Jon Christensen percussion
Recorded September 22/23, 1970 at the Bendiksen Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: January 1, 1971

Saxophonist Jan Garbarek has changed with time and age, but already in Afric Pepperbird, his first album for ECM and one that would instigate an unbreakable association with the label, he invites us into a world that is playful yet mature. Half of the album is made up of miniatures, “Skarabée” and “Mah-Jong” the most precise and delicate among them, laced as they are with drummer Jon Christensen’s distinctive cymbal work and overall compositional sensibility. “MYB” and “Concentus,” for their part, drop like seeds into the album’s fertile soil. Bassist Arild Andersen’s steady bass line assures us the title track can swing with confidence, pouring on Saharan charm like fresh honey, while “Blow Away Zone” features an adventurous Terje Rypdal on guitar and an ether-wrenching solo from Garbarek, who squeezes his way through an opaque tornado of bass and drums. Clocking in at twelve-and-a-half minutes is “Beast Of Kommodo,” a rewarding romp of gargantuan proportions. Garbarek gives his all, mixing roars with fluted reveries with equal conviction. The set bows out with “Blupp,” a smile-inducing froth of percussion and vocals that doesn’t so much describe its title as demonstrate it.

This may very well be, along with Witchi-Tai-To, the quintessential Garbarek album for those who normally don’t care for his style. Whatever your taste in jazz, whatever your opinion on Garbarek and the label he calls home, this is a spirited and robust effort worthy of your attention.

3 thoughts on “Jan Garbarek Quartet: Afric Pepperbird (ECM 1007)

  1. Tyran,

    Great essay. I count myself amongst the numbers who often have a hard time stomaching Garbarek. This is such a terrific album. The immediacy of the playing and recording both are so exciting and engaging. I appreciate the Dave Holland reference, this seems like a Dave Holland album. An exciting and compelling piece with lots of surprises.

  2. I came to this release as an LP that my friend spun for me one night in grad school. Having known Garbarek from Witchi-Tai-To, his work on Solstice Sound and Shadows and with Towner on Dis, Afric Pepperbird was shocking, to tell the truth. But I stuck with it and it has stuck with me through the years, and it still sounds fresh and vital – and relevant. What fun it is to go back and listen to music first heard over 30 years ago!

  3. For the most part, I find Garbarek’s tone difficult to enjoy (I have in the past, possibly unfairly, compared it with somebody strangling a goose – melodically). His later works are definitely on the sweet side, and I get the criticisms, but I think he has a wonderful ear for melody, harmony and texture, and while I may struggle with his lead lines, I can always enjoy the music around them.

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