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.