Subdued Garbarek, Brilliant Trio
Stephen Silberman | SF, CA USA | 07/24/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Before I even talk about the music on this fine album, Garbarek fans take note: I'm of two minds about Garbarek. It's hard to imagine Ralph Towner's brilliant Solstice group without Garbarek's contributions -- his keening, mournful, piercing explorations were perfect in that context, and Garbarek's flute performance on the exquisite Towner track "Drifting Petals" is sublime. I also love Garbarek's now nearly forgotten album with Art Lande, "Red Lanta." I find the similarity of mood and attack of his gazillion solo projects to be daunting, however. I usually feel jazz as some combination of swing and soul, and Garbarek doesn't have much of either -- he soars above his sidemen, praying to some fierce Norse god of melancholy with his horn, and if you're with him on that, his music is great. If not, it's simply grating and monochromatic.That all said, what makes this album wonderful is both the subdued mood of Garbarek's playing, and the really wonderful excursions of the trio, comprised of an ECM heavy-hitter crew of lyrical, empathic musicians. If you like what Charles Lloyd has done with Bobo Stenson's group, you may like this -- Stenson, Danielsson, and Christensen flow around Garbarek's horn like lucid water, providing Garbarek's pointillistic probing with a broad canvas. Stenson is a fountainhead of improvised melody, and Christianen and Danielsson are as telepathic as ever. (In their own European way, they're as peerless a rhythm section as Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette.) Fans of Keith Jarrett's masterful -- and underappreciated -- "My Song" will find much to celebrate here.Only for the 90-second long track "Skrik and Hyl" does Garbarek bust out the dentist-drill soprano wails -- what is it that makes his dissonance more painful (to me) than the dissonance of less talented free-jazz players?But for the most part, this is a moody, swinging ("Dansere"!), meditative trip into golden-age ECM territory."