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100 Jazz Profiles
Jan Garbarek
1947 - Present
Saxophonist. With one of the most distinctive and immediately recognisable tones in jazz, the Norwegan player Jan Garbarek has been a pioneer of crossover into world music and electronica, as well as fusions with classical and early music. His earliest influence was John Coltrane, and as he taught himself to play, Garbarek absorbed everything he could about his hero. At the age of 18, he began a fruitful association with the American composer, bandleader and theorist George Russell, with whom he later recorded.

Garbarek’s first band, with guitarist Terje Rypdal, bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen was formed in the late 1960s, and began recording for ECM in 1970. Their first discs, Afric Pepperbird and SART contain fierce, energetic and angry music, owing much to late period Coltrane and Albert Ayler, and have come to be regarded as some of the finest European free jazz of the 1970s. The same is true of Garbarek’s co-led quartet of the mid-70s with pianist Bobo Stenson, and their albums Witchi Tai To amd Dansere became equally highly thought of, the latter demonstrating Garbarek’s growing independence of style, with consciously Nordic ballads.

From 1974 until the end of the decade, Garbarek worked with Keith Jarrett, their studio albums having a poised lyricism about them, whereas their live records from Japan and New York’s Village Vanguard display much of the same fierce energy as Garbarek’s debut discs. The 1980s saw Garbarek exploring a variety of world music styles, including collaborations with Shankar, Egberto Gismonti, Nana Vasconcelos, Trilok Gurtu and Zakir Hussain. He also began multi-tracking electronic albums on which he played all the instruments and manipulated the synthesized sounds.

His more recent work has included touring and recording with the quartet of Rainer Bruninghaus, keyboards, Eberhard Weber, bass and Marilyn Mazur, percussion, and the group has worked with additional guests and with pre-recorded backdrops in a variety of live and studio settings. His 1993 collaboration with the Hilliard Ensemble - a group of British early music singers - produced the album Officium, and a sequel Mnemosyne. These both became best-selling albums, the former appearing in the classical charts, and introduced Garbarek’s music to new audiences worldwide.

Further Reading: Michael Tucker: Jan Garbarek — Deep Song (East Note, 1998)

Recommended Recordings (all for ECM):
Keith Jarrett: My Song
Afric Pepperbird
Ragas and Sagas
To All Those Born With Wings
Twelve Moons
Visible World

Website links
http://www.garbarek.com/ Includes Garbarek’s touring schedule

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