Jan Garbarek: All Those Born With Wings (ECM 1324)

Jan Garbarek
All Those Born With Wings

Jan Garbarek solo
Recorded August 1986 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

As one of ECM’s most passionate and prolific contributors, Jan Garbarek has left us with a varicolored, sometimes watery, archive. For All Those Born With Wings, the Norwegian saxophonist went solo, painting an evocative album of relic-laden vistas. The result is a six-part session filled with a variety of instruments and tastes. The hammered dulcimer is a welcome sound to the Garbarek palette, and is used tastefully in the 1st Part, where Garbarek’s saxophone refracts into a flock of large-winged birds. An army of chants floods the 2nd Part, as martial drums resound like the introductory sequence of a classic martial arts film.

While such dramatic flourishes make for a powerful start, the album’s hold begins to wane in the 3rd part, which comes across as tentative and in need of deeper thought. By the same token, such moments reveal an endearing vulnerability, one of which I like to think Garbarek was conscious when drawing this album from his psyche. Another drawback, though likely not at the time of recording, are the electronics, which don’t hold up as well as the melodies they articulate. Note, for example, the visceral edge Garbarek gets using only piano and saxophone in the 4th Part. This combination is so effective (cf. Stella Malu), one wishes it comprised the entire album. Its permeable lullaby haunts, as do the strains of the next part. This time, Garbarek pairs himself with a shoddy synthesized guitar, which makes me wonder why an acoustic couldn’t have been brought in. The subtle live percussion, however, adds flavor and sparkle to both of these pieces. I also find the multi-tracking to be an unnecessary diversion. Garbarek’s tone is already so full that additional voices seem superfluous. The final part brings together the album’s quiet logic at last and breeds its greatest clarity for the lack of contrivance.

There is something delicate, almost childlike, in these pockets of stars that makes them worth exploring. Still, those new to Garbarek may want to look elsewhere in his evening sky before connecting the dots of this particular constellation.

<< Gavin Bryars: Three Viennese Dancers (ECM 1323 NS)
>> Arvo Pärt: Arbos (ECM 1325 NS)

3 thoughts on “Jan Garbarek: All Those Born With Wings (ECM 1324)

  1. This is quite an enigma….when it was first released (I was a post-Doc in Seattle), I fell in love with the music (probably made for a great peaceful release from the lab!). But it hasn’t worn all that well for me over time – this review will induce me to revisit it. It would be fascinating to have a chat with Mr. Garbarek to ask him to assess his entire ECM output – and his current views on highlights and possible slips!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s