Gary Peacock double-bass
Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones
Recorded December 1977 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
From the start of Gary Peacock’s December Poems, one revels in the sound of his instrument, the buzzing, raw quality of which comes to listeners at last relatively unmitigated. After a languid intro, “Snow Dance” lays down an unsinkable bass line, over which overdubbed improvisations abound. Jan Garbarek’s reports paint “Winterlude” like the sky outside my streaked window: that is, with only the barest of contrasts separating heaven and earth. “A Northern Tale” is a strangely airy segue into the wistful intro of “December Greenwings” and Garbarek’s subsequent reappearance. His winding paths intersect beautifully with Peacock’s straight and narrow in a track that is about as upbeat as the album gets. “Flower Crystals” changes the tone considerably with some internal pianism before settling into “Celebrations.” Like the opener, this also features two basses, only this time caught in a more erratic chain of events.
As I write this, it is indeed December—New Year’s Eve to be precise—and I am on a bus bound for New York City. Behind thoughts of friends and fun (the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of Pelléas et Mélisande awaits me), I feel in the starkness of this music the deeper roots of my travel. As the sun rises somewhere behind the cloud cover, I know that its light shines within. Recorded with unsurprising clarity, the album captures every creak, tap, and involuntary hum. Like a bare tree standing in a snowy field, its branches cut a bold hand-stretch of lines across a canvas of white and gray. As with Jack DeJohnette’s Pictures, this effort offers insight into an otherwise fiery group player whose free-spiritedness is akin to that of the label on which he has found his ideal home.