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Visible World

Jan Garbarek

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Album Review

Apart from David Sanborn, probably no living saxophonist has a more instantly recognizable voice than Jan Garbarek; actually, given the fact that Sanborn's sound is so widely copied, Garbarek's may be easier to identify in a blindfold test. This album in particular puts that sound front and center. Garbarek's the show; he composed all of the music, and is essentially the only soloist. The music (much of which was composed as soundtrack material for film or video) is quintessential Garbarek, full of the world music influences that have characterized his work since the 1970s. Garbarek's resonant, carefully articulated tenor and soprano tone suits the spacious, minor/modal themes. He's as much a singer as instrumentalist. Garbarek also plays digital synthesizers, mostly as string or flute pads underneath the folkish melodies. The record's most notable secondary player is Garbarek's ECM labelmate, the bassist Eberhard Weber, whose lyric sensibility is a virtual mirror of Garbarek's. This is quiet, contemplative music for the most part — attractive, but not superficially pretty. Its grooves are less celebratory than melancholic. There's an intensity here borne of deep concentration and commitment to beauty. Garbarek has come a long way since his early days as a quasi-free jazz experimentalist. This music is not jazz, nor is it experimental. But it is compelling in its way, representative of a first-rate creative musician, beyond category.

Biography

Born: 04 March 1947 in Norway

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek's icy tone and liberal use of space and long tones has long been perfect for the ECM sound and, as a result, he is on many recordings for that label, both as a leader and as a sideman. He had won a competition for amateur jazz players back in 1962, leading to his first gigs. Garbarek worked steadily in Norway throughout the remainder of the '60s, usually as a leader but also for four years with George Russell (who was in Scandinavia for a long stretch). Garbarek...
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