By Mark Saleski
Immediately recognizable saxophone voices: Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane. To this list we must add Jan Garbarek.
Every musician brings something unique to the aural world. A way of phrasing. Romanticism of melody. Cryptic storytelling with chords. Energy. Shocking bursts of seeming anti-logic. Tone.
In the jazz/instrumental music realm, tone is it. The musician's voice. We as listeners identify with that sound and can use it, even in 'blind' situations, to make an identification. It's always amazed me how quickly that connection can be made. A pair of notes follow by an octave (well, almost) leap and we know it's Ornette Coleman. A few dark notes from Miles' trumpet...and you're there. If we're talking about Jan Garbarek, a single note is sufficient. One high, expressive note from that soprano sax and you just know. There's no mistaking Garbarek's sound.
Now, if you want to categorize Garbarek's music, well, that's a more difficult task. He's produced out-there abstractions, variations on Nordic folk music, pensive and ambient solo workouts, film music and majestic neoclassical beauty (just check out his collaborations with the Hilliard Ensemble).
Garbarek's In Praise Of Dreams brought some new bits into the mix. Namely, the viola of Kim Kashkashian and the percussion of Manu Katché.
Katché, who has played with an impressive list of artists from many genres including Al DiMeola, Loreena McKennit, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N'Dour, Sting, and Jan Garbarek, adds just a hint of groove, never gets in the way and seems to be on the hunt for 'the perfect accent.' In Kim Kashkashian, Garbarek may have found his ultimate counterpart. Tonally, her viola is more than just complementary to Garbarek's sax (both soprano and tenor) ... it is at home.
Together, these three musicians work some understated magic. On Knot of place and time," Katché sets up the shell of a groove while Garbarek and Kashkashian play melodic statements and counterpoints. It's like hearing the two players dance.
Garbarek, in a nod to his film work, also makes use of some samples and looped electronics here and there. This doesn't move In Praise closer to the electroacoustic genre, but instead adds nice atmospheric touches. In the middle of Scene from afar," Katché is left alone to play some skittish brushes on the snare, while something is going on the in the background ... the wind in the air? a reversed bell tone? a snippet of conversation? It's hard to tell, but it does get your attention.
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