Jan Garbarek: In Praise of Dreams (ECM 1880)

In Praise of Dreams

Jan Garbarek
In Praise of Dreams

Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones and/or synthesizers, samplers, percussion
Kim Kashkashian viola
Manu Katché drums
Recorded March and June 2003 at Blue Jay Recording Studio, Carlisle, MA (Engineer: James Farber), A.P.C. Studio, Paris (Engineer: Didier Léglise), and in Oslo
Edited, mixed, and completed at Rainbow Studio, Oslo, by Jan Garbarek, Manfred Eicher, and Jan Erik Kongshaug (Engineer)
Produced by Manfred Eicher and Jan Garbarek

By the release of In Praise of Dreams, six years had elapsed since Jan Garbarek’s RITES. Where that earlier album was something of a meta-statement for the Norwegian saxophonist-composer, here we get a comforting regression into terrains that are familiar, if drawn with new pigments. Of those pigments, violist Kim Kashkashian is perhaps most striking. More than her tangential associations with composers Eleni Karaindrou and Tigran Mansurian, it is her richness and depth of feeling that make Kashkashian such an intuitive musical partner for Garbarek. Drummer Manu Katché, aside from notable appearances on earlier Garbarek albums (including his definitive Visible World), pours a sensitivity all his own into the mix. Indeed, sensitivity is name of the game throughout this meticulous album, which bows to improvisatory freedoms at select moments of abandon.

Usual Garbarek elements abound: the graceful tone of his horn, a tasteful array of electronics and keyboards, and a feeling of dance turned into song. Yet what makes Praise so worthy of just that is its melodic integrity. Every tune finds its own burrow, where it dreams comfortably of life on a different plain. Between opener“As seen from above,” which overlays tender reed lines over a groundswell of piano and sampled drum riffs, and the concluding “A tale begun,” the latter a congregation of breath and bow that extends one of the most beautiful roots into ECM’s soil, a sense of oneness with nature prevails. The ensuing dramaturgy keeps us ever in sight of Garbarek’s shadow, racing across the ground in birdlike shape toward some illusion of stillness.

Along the way, the listener is treated to a veritable storybook of textures. Kashkashian’s ebony qualities work most cinematically in “One goes there alone” and in the title track. Pulsing beats connect feet to earth as lines of deference are exchanged above. Garbarek melodizes freely with eyes closed, prepared for whatever light or dark may come, while Kashkashian shuffles tension and release with likeminded ease. In this regard, “Knot of place and time” is an emblematic title, marking as it does the spatiotemporal crossroads at which stands so much of Garbarek’s writing, a spirit that needs the translation of recording to make its landscapes seem real.

Sometimes, those landscapes are arid. Long untouched by sole or palm, they nevertheless shine with immediacy. Across them Kashkashian provides the regular curlicues of wind through which Garbarek threads his cries. “Cloud of unknowing,” for one, rests on a harp-like arpeggio and splits unison lines into separate journeys, each spurred by a delicate percussive undercurrent through the dunes into unexpected waters. Other times, as in “Iceburn,” the conditions are wintry, beginning fragmented but arriving at the same crystalline ever after. In these caverns the piano becomes a relic, memory of a time that is no longer with us. Like the carousel of “Scene from afar” and the lyrical train ride into which it morphs, it’s all in the mind.

These are but some of the highlights of a trajectory, flowing from horizon to horizon in a jet stream fully shrouded with intention, that is nothing without the listener’s own secrets. As yet unwritten, they stand in the exact center of a suspension bridge that could bend either way. Take the first step, and see where the next will take you.

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