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Jan Garbarek Selected Recordings Review

Compilation. Released 29 April 2002.  

BBC Review

Nordic saxophonist Jan Garbarek gets to sift through his own back catalogue for this...

Liz Mundler 2002

It's not often you find Keith Jarrett on the same album as Usted Fatah Ali-Khan. Or indeed the delightfully named Rogers Covey-Crump. The unifying force behind these and a whole host of other musicians from extremely diverse backgrounds is the amazing Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. It's not just his technical ability that amazes, although he may well be the finest saxophonist you'll ever hear. It's the breadth of that talent, the vast imagination, the sheer all-embracingness of his musicality that astounds, impresses and haunts.

This double album is a retrospective compilation drawn from a number of Garbarek's albums recorded over the last 30 years. It is Garbarek's own celebration of the wealth of collaborations and musical partnerships that his career has embraced. Through this selection of tracks he charts his own musical progress, stands back and finds a perspective, maps out the warp and weft of his own music by tracing some of the influences.

Jan Garbarek's music always has a direct emotional impact. His range of tone is incredible. From limpid torrents to dreamy mists, jarring jagged edges to ice-cool curves, he can tingle your spine one minute, jar your nerves the next, and then melt your heart. This disc runs the gamut of all of these and more. The tabla, the oud, the double bass and the ethereal voices of the Hilliard Ensemble (including the aforementioned Covey-Crump) feature on this disc, and with all of them Garbarek blends superbly without losing the individuality of his sound.

Everyone will have their own favourite track (there are 24 to choose from). Mine's "My Song", recorded with Keith Jarrett back in 77.It has a freshness about it, an air of mellow optimism. Jarrett's playing is gentle, almost offhand, with gorgeous clarity, and Garbarek's saxophone weaves around the piano and percussion like a spider weaving a web.

A close second would be the last track on the album, "Parce Mihi Domine" (by Christobal de Morales) from the chart-topping album Officium, recorded with the Hilliard Ensemble in 1993. There's something about the way the saxophone soars above the four male voices, the church acoustic, the meditative, sacred feel to the music that lends an air of calmness and tranquillity. Its an unlikely combination, but it works. Beautiful.

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