Jan Garbarek Group: It’s OK to listen to the gray voice (ECM 1294)

Jan Garbarek Group
It’s OK to listen to the gray voice

Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones
David Torn guitars, guitar synthesizer, DX 7
Eberhard Weber bass
Michael DiPasqua drums, percussion
Recorded December 1984 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

O field as grey as the buried bog-man’s cloak.
An island floating darkly in the fog.
It’s quiet, as when the radar turns
and turns its arc in hopelessness.

 There’s a crossroads in a moment.
Music of the distance converges.
All grown together in a leafy tree.
Vanished cities glitter in its branches.

–From “Elegy” by Tomas Tranströmer (trans. Robin Fulton)

If the title of this classic Jan Garbarek date from 1984 moves you, there’s a good reason for that. Like all of the tunes therein, its nomenclature is culled from the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer, who was just awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature this year. And if anyone has the vocabulary available at his lips to reproduce it without words, it’s Jan Garbarek.

Garbarek albums are, like those of Keith Jarrett, trail markers in the ECM catalogue by which can gauge the label’s evolution in sound and atmosphere, and if this one is any indication, I’d say things were moving along pretty darn smoothly. Garbarek shines brightest in the company of those who have their own sonorous light to bring to an otherwise inarticulable cause, and finds exactly that in guitarist David Torn, bassist Eberhard Weber, and drummer Michael DiPasqua.

Together they string a delicate network of guitar and electronics in “White Noise Of Forgetfulness,” throughout which Garbarek strings a song to complement every warped square of silence. Weber opens “The Crossing Place” with a honeyed solo, to which Garbarek touches his saxophonic torch and sets the darkness aglow like a sparkler in July, ever dancing at the edge of annihilation. Torn’s snaking solo winds beneath a desert sun into the oasis of “One Day In March I Go Down To The Sea.” Here Garbarek takes the notion of sonic postcard to an entirely new level, moving diacritically around images and sentiments with the care of a sable brush. “Mission: To Be Where I Am” comes across as something of a personal anthem, and has a lilting beauty all its own. “Phone The Island That Is A Mirage” features melodious bass work from Weber amid a slowly moving atmosphere. The haunting title track is straight from the heart and would reappear on the saxophonist’s 1998 magnum opus, Rites. The set ends modestly with “I Am The Knife Thrower’s Partner,” a sad and lonely tale—nay, an impression—told by two overdubbed saxophones, each a light upon the horizon gone too soon.

<< Gary Burton Quartet: Real Life Hits (ECM 1293)
>> John Surman: Withholding Pattern (ECM 1295)

2 thoughts on “Jan Garbarek Group: It’s OK to listen to the gray voice (ECM 1294)

  1. Along with “Paths, Prints” and “Photo With…” I think these 3 albums show us the best of the Garbarek groups work ..

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