Jan Garbarek Group
Jan Garbarek soprano and tenor saxophones, keyboards
Rainer Brüninghaus keyboards
Eberhard Weber bass
Manu Katché drums
Marilyn Mazur percussion
Agnes Buen Garnås vocal
Mari Boine vocal
Recorded September 1992 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Twelve Moons may be the fifth Jan Garbarek Group album by name, but its smoothness and level of musicianship mark it as a great leap into the group’s signature sound. Between the sparkling ocean of the two-part title track and a gloriously realized “Witchi-Tai-To” (making its first reappearance since the selfsame album of 1974), Garbarek and his mind-melded band mates have created a record of great scope and mood. Earthen motives mesh with synth textures, breath with lively percussion, folk tunes with modern lilts. By means of his cinematic sweep Garbarek turns aside the bane of an indifferent world in favor of visceral emotional connections. Just when we think those connections have receded, they come back at fuller force, pulling away the darkness like a curtain to reveal the light which has offset it all along. Agnes Buen Garnås (who had previously collaborated with Garbarek on Rosensfole) and Mari Boine lend their mineral-rich voices to “Psalm” and “Darvánan,” respectively, moving from vast droning landscape to haunting duet as might a rainbow split into two. Garbarek’s tenor makes only a few appearances (most effectively in the arcing storyline of “Brother Wind March”). Its voice in “The Tall Tear Trees,” for one, implores the firmament with the conviction of a returning wayfarer who has just spotted home on the horizon. Yet this session is mostly about a soprano whose sky-bound warbling in “There Were Swallows…” (notable also for Eberhard Weber’s whale-like bass) and lullaby strains in “Arietta” seem to take great comfort in the cushiony surroundings. “Gautes-Margjit” is an especially attractive groove that rests itself easily in the cradle of our wonder, bristling with an aliveness of pianism such as only Rainer Brüninghaus can elicit. Garbarek’s soaring tone bleeds pink like tropical clouds afflicted with heat lightning. And let us not forget Manu Katché’s gripping provocations in “Huhai.”
A flawless classic, Twelve Moons offers a rich bouquet for the ears with melodies and rhythms that go straight to the heart of anyone who loves to listen.
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2 thoughts on “Jan Garbarek Group: Twelve Moons (ECM 1500)”
One I know well so good to read your thoughts on it – a few natural history references creeping in here.
Worth a “one of the top ECM releases of all time” just for the return of the haunting tune “Witchi-Tai-To”, this is just wonderful throughout; classic line up, everyone in fine voice. No wonder ECM chose Garbarek to mark the magic release #500 mark. Great review of a great album!