Jan Garbarek: Rites

COMPOSERS: Jan Garbarek
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Rites
PERFORMER: Jan Garbarek (ss, ts, synths, samplers, perc), Rainer Brüninghaus (p, kbd), Eberhard Weber (b), Marilyn Mazur (perc), Bugge Wesseltoft (synth, acc); Boys from Sølvguttene Choir, Tbilisi SO/Jansug Kakhidze (v)
CATALOGUE NO: 559 006-2
Jan Garbarek never ceases to amaze and delight. He’s not only one of the most original and consummate saxophonists of the last three decades, but also a fine composer and a music-maker whose vision seems to expand constantly. He’s a jazz musician through and through, yet is really fascinated by the connections between Norwegian music and that of India via the Balkans and Asia Minor. Rites is a masterwork, and a sort of summary of his development to date, drawing together all the disparate strands of his experience into diverse and compelling new syntheses.

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The title track begins with sounds recorded by Garbarek while travelling in India – a train’s distant puffing, faint voices, bird twitterings – all rendered yet more mysterious by haunting synthesizer effects. The rhythm builds, and Garbarek’s soprano enters with poignant phrases. Here and throughout the album, Garbarek’s pacing is superb; his every note counts, his very sound is emotive, and he always knows when to play sparely.

Throughout, the combination of musicians is constantly varied to meet the different textural and expressive requirements of each piece. Marilyn Mazur is added for the marvellous rolling rhythms of ‘Where the Rivers Meet’, and by use of overdubbing, Garbarek duets with himself on tenor sax.

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He also reinvestigates two compositions he recorded in the Eighties: ‘So Mild the Wind, So Meek the Water’ here includes Mazur, Brüninghaus on acoustic piano and Weber in an exquisitely heartfelt performance. Then with the same musicians ‘It’s OK to Listen to the Gray Voice’ has the theme played by bass and soprano, and a piano solo, in a highly lyrical performance. Garbarek also includes Don Cherry’s composition ‘Malinye’, as a tribute to the deceased trumpeter who had been an early inspiration to him. ‘We Are the Stars’ is Garbarek’s setting of a translation of a Native American poem of the Passamaquoddy tribe, and features him on soprano and synthesizer with the voices of boys from the choir. Garbarek also generously includes ‘The Moon over Mtatsminda’, a piece composed and performed by the Georgian singer/ conductor Jansug Kakhidze, who sings it sweetly and passionately.