Jan Garbarek Group: Wayfarer (ECM 1259)

Jan Garbarek Group

Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones
Bill Frisell guitar
Eberhard Weber bass
Michael DiPasqua drums, percussion
Recorded March 1983 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The Jan Garbarek Group has ever been among ECM’s more formidable. Its winning inclusion of bassist Eberhard Weber ensured a fluid foil to Garbarek’s scalpeled lines. The brief tenure of guitarist Bill Frisell made that balance even more promising. That being said, Wayfarer tends to meander as much as its eponymous protagonist, although who’s to say this wasn’t the intention. Gone is the full-on dreaminess of Paths, Prints. In its place: a session that walks in a half-sleep through picturesque territories without ever really looking at them, never quite knowing which reality it is committed to. Drummer Michael DiPasqua gives us hope in the inaugural “Gesture,” carrying over the cymbal rides one misses in Jon Christensen’s absence, but his surroundings only seem to wander in circles. “Gentle” is another case in point, though Weber manages to enliven this piece into something beautiful. At ten and a half minutes, “Pendulum” is the album’s central epic and gives Frisell plenty of room to stretch. But the ponderousness wears thin, and one loses sight of the destination. Likewise, “Spor” seems more like a studio warm-up to something that never made the final cut. The album’s reigning exception is the title track, which from a brooding crawl through dimly lit catacombs bursts with DiPasqua’s incredible frenzy as Frisell sharpens his axe along the periphery. It also gives us a taste of the old Garbarek.

Despite occasional flashes of brilliance and fine musicianship all around, the themes on Wayfarer are relatively weak and don’t seem to add up. In my journey through ECM’s back catalogue thus far, this is the only Jan Garbarek Group album I would hesitate to recommend. This may be one, however, to grow with time.

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>> Chick Corea/Gary Burton: Lyric Suite For Sextet (ECM 1260)

3 thoughts on “Jan Garbarek Group: Wayfarer (ECM 1259)

  1. Very interesting review, and will direct me back to the music for another listen. I think that because this emerged around the time of my attendance of a Garbarek concert with just this line-up, I’ve always looked very favorably at this album. I am sure that nostalgia and fondness for the event helps considerably!

    1. I’m still on the fence about this one, though I must admit that “Pendulum” is growing on me. I’ve only heard the album straight through twice, so my opinions might very well change…

      1. Tyran, I have to agree with you on this one. I too caught this line-up perform after the release of “Paths, Prints” (which I love). By the time that album was being promoted Jon Christensen had moved on (I was disappointed very much, but Mike DiPasqua was amazing live and was a hell of a nice guy when I spoke to him after the gig), But I must admit, even at the performance I was a bit disappointed- seems the band was playing very much in the style of this album which was recorded months later. I agree that the mood and atmosphere was gone that was so prevalent on “Paths, Prints” and I thought Frisell was playing too much distorted, aggressive fusion style guitar (which , to me, is the main culprit in destroying the delicate balmnce and mood of the earlier disc).

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