Sax icon Jan Garbarek returns to the centre stage with his first album in six years."In Praise of Dreams" is a return to the trio format with violist Kim Kashkashian and percussionist Manu Katché.
“In Praise of Dreams” (ECM) is the first new album from Garbarek since “Rites” was released six years ago. Accompanying the tenor and soprano sax icon (who also handles synths, programming and percussion) is Kim Kashkashian on viola and his long-standing drums/percussion partner Manu Katché.
Continuing Garbarek’s strong tradition of standard-setting releases, “In Praise of Dreams” is a striking work with some of Garbarek’s most intensely melodic writing, characteristically powerful solo statements, and spirited instrumental exchanges. “In Praise of Dreams” also showcases the saxophonist’s capacities as a composer-orchestrator-arranger, and proposes some new colours and textures in its blending of acoustic and electronic elements. From the very first unmistakable sax tone, Garbarek’s trademark clear, far-reaching, searching and strong voice puts a strong and evident authorship on the work. Says Garbarek: “I think more in terms of evolution than revolution, the changes in the music taking place slowly over time, but there are some surprises here.”
“In Praise of Dreams” features two performers with whom Jan Garbarek has some history – American-Armenian violist Kim Kashkashian and African-French drummer Manu Katché. Garbarek, Kashkashian and Katché span a lot of idioms between them, but the music created by the trio is presented with a focussed sense of purpose in the context that Garbarek has shaped for it. The unusual set-up of sax and viola represents a new setting and new challenges for Garbarek’s writing. Says the composer/sax player: “I was really overwhelmed by the life and the depth that Kim brought to the lines that I presented to her… The way she plays the viola, the sensibility of the phrasing, all the subtleties and nuances of her sound production, it’s very close to the way I’d like to play saxophone. There seems to be a very good connection between our timbres, too, which was even more than I had hoped for. The richness in her sound brings the music to another level and gives me something to reach for, in my improvisations. It was inspiring to work with her.”
Garbarek and Katché’s musical partnership goes more than 15 years back in time, beginning with the landmark “I Took Up The Runes” album. Says Garbarek on his long-standing percussion companion: “Manu has many qualities as a player. He can do many things, but much of his playing is pattern oriented. He’s looking for just the right drum pattern to fit a piece of music and he’ll stay with that, but vary it in minimalist ways with dynamics and attack. Rather than breaking loose to play soloistically, he maintains the ambience he’s created. Now, I love all the old jazz drummers, like Jo Jones, for example, or Gene Krupa, and they were also more pattern oriented rather than freely expressive in the way that most contemporary jazz drummers are. And it’s something I’ve missed. Manu has that quality in his approach, but also a very elegant sophistication, a poetic sensitivity.”
The album’s title was inspired from the poem “In Praise of Dreams” written by Wislawa Syzmborska. The first lines (translated to English) read: “In my dreams/I paint like Vermeer van Delft” – an interesting parallel to the musical portraits painted on the recording.
Jan Garbarek’s ability to create a forceful, comprehensive saxophone sound has paradoxically developed in step with his ability to write simple. Clear music in which the notes are allowed to resound to the end. The stronger his horn thunders, the closer he is to silence. Garbarek’s sound is based on consistent, continuous work with equally hard-working colleagues. His international break-through came in 1974 with the release of “Witchi-Tai-To” which at the time represented a completely new take on improvised music with its slower tempos and a spacious atmosphere. Garbarek followed up with the standard-setting “Dis” (1977), “Places” (1978) and “Photo With Blue Sky, White Cloud, Wires, Windows and a Red Roof (1979) all on ECM. Other central releases from Norwegian jazz’ most central and best known performer include “I Took Up The Runes” (1990), “Wayfarer” (1983), “Visible World” (1996) and Officium (1994).
Over the years Garbarek has collaborated with a long list of performers that reads as a who’s who of the international jazz scene. To name a few: Keith Jarrett, Ralph Towner, Eberhard Weber, Bill Frisell, the Hilliard Ensemble, Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin and Trilok Gurtu.
For nearly three decades, ECM has been cultivating the aesthetic aspets of music and developing one of the most consistent musical profiles in Europe, “The sound next to silence” was ECM founder and renowned producer Manfred Eicher’s governing motto, a motto that suits Garbarek’s spacious compositions well. Garbarek attributes the overall shape of “In Praise of Dreams” to its producer, Eicher: “When it comes to organizing the pieces as a whole, that’s difficult for me, because I’m bound up in the details of each individual tune” says Garbarek. “The best ideas for that usually come from Manfred Eicher. Hearing these pieces during the mix he very quickly had an idea about the dramaturgy. He sees the whole more spontaneously, and I trust him 100% in this. I’d tried all kinds of way to put these pieces together, but once Manfred suggested an order, everything fell into place.”
In October and November, Jan Garbarek Group are set to tour Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Hungary and the UK. Check out MIC’s calendar for dates and venues.
“In Praise of Dreams” (cat. no. 6024 981 1068 (3) ) is set for release on ECM on 27 September.