Jan Garbarek Group: Dresden – In Concert (ECM 2100/01)


Jan Garbarek Group
Dresden – In Concert

Jan Garbarek soprano and tenor saxophone
Rainer Brüninghaus piano, keyboards
Yuri Daniel bass
Manu Katché drums
Recorded live October 20, 2007 at Alter Schlachthof, Dresden
Engineers: Gert Rickmann-Wunderlich and Rüdiger Nürnberg
Mixed by Jan Erik Kongshaug (engineer), Jan Garbarek, and Manfred Eicher
Produced by Jan Garbarek and Manfred Eicher

Dresden is monumental for being Jan Garbarek’s first live album. Monumental because, even as his crafted studio creations were capturing the hearts of countless listeners, so too were his performances across Europe and abroad. With his own group, the Norwegian saxophonist had crafted something special, and it was only a matter of time before its fire came through in the form of a less mitigated recording. Although it is unfortunate that Garbarek’s regular bassist, Eberhard Weber, was by this point too ill to join him on stage, he was formidably replaced by Yuri Daniel, interlocking with pianist Rainer Brüninghaus and drummer Manu Katché as if he’d always been among them.

With such an inventory of songs and experience from which to choose, Garbarek might have started in any number of places, but opens this concert with the lovely, free-flowing gem “Paper Nut.” First heard on Song for Everyone, one of two ECM collaborations with Indian violinist L. Shankar, it moves with all the synergy and assurance the present quartet has to offer. In addition to the unforgettable melody, sure to find a place in you the first time you hear it, it showcases some of Garbarek’s purest intonation on record. Clarion and unfalteringly naked, it cuts veins of mineral through the bedrock of jazz into the primal core beyond it.

The next point of reference is 1993’s Twelve Moons, from which the group renews three tunes: “The Tall Tear Trees,” “There Were Swallows,” and “Twelve Moons.” In each, the musicians interlock as listeners as much as players, Daniel’s bass laddering roots while Katché paints in a ritual filigree. The title tune is quintessential Garbarek, who finds himself lifted to new heights by Brüninghaus’s colorations as before riding an unaccompanied solo to finish. Legend of the Seven Dreams, from 1988, also gets a nod with the smoothly executed “Voy Cantando.”

The handful of new material introduced in this double-disc album is cause for celebration. From the forested pianism of “Heitor” to the beat-driven flights of “Nu Bein” (featuring Garbarek on the seljefløyte, or Norwegian overtone flute), there’s much to savor from everyone. Among these tunes is “The Reluctant Saxophonist,” which despite its tongue-in-cheek title (Garbarek’s playing is anything but reluctant) attains the most ambitious heights of the concert.

Non-Garbarek tunes include the pastoral “Rondo Amoroso,” arranged from the piece by Norwegian composer Harald Sæverud (1897-1992), and “Milagre Dos Peixes” (Miracle of the Fishes), written by Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento and made famous by Wayne Shorter. Brüninghaus is again outstanding, pushing Garbarek to stronger depths, as also in “Transformations,” one of two remarkable solo interludes that rounds out the set. The other is “Tao,” Daniel’s moment in the sun. Balancing technical flourish with emotional flexibility, it proves him a worthy successor to the Weber legacy.

Dresden is, quite simply, the kind of album that makes one feel good to be alive. A classic before it was even recorded.

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