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In Praise of Dreams
Jan GARBAREK (b. 1947)

As seen from above; In praise of dreams; One goes there alone; Knot of place and time; If you go far enough; Scene from afar; Cloud of unknowing; Without visible sign; Iceburn; Conversation with a stone; A tale begun
Jan Garbarek, saxophones, keyboards, samplers, percussion
Kim Kashkashian, viola
Manu Katché, drums, samplers
Recorded at Blue Jay Studio, MA, PC Studio, Paris, and Rainbow Studio, Oslo, during 2003.
ECM NEW SERIES 1880 [53.25]

"His music is an affirmation, and it is full of resonances of……
half-forgotten things from long ago"
The Rough Guide to Jazz on Jan Garbarek

Six years down the line from the epochal Rites and five since the second Hilliard collaboration (Mnemosyne), the genius of Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek is again in our midst. Accompanied this time only by long time collaborator, drummer Manu Katché and brilliant classical violist Kim Kashkashian (fresh from their work together on the music of Tigran Mansurian), Garbarek pares everything down to the basics with stunning results. Uncannily, when I first heard this, I was reading the recent paperback reissue of Alan Garner's masterpiece Thursbitch; the latter's theme of sentient landscape is so in keeping with what Garbarek's music, on this disc and others. For example, in the case of Legend of the Seven Dreams I almost saw it as a soundtrack to the narrative, the fjords of Norway and my own north Cheshire locale seemingly merging into one.

The title piece is reminiscent of an old Celto-Nordic air, of the sort that Aly Bain recorded on his groundbreaking collaboration with the BT Scottish Ensemble (Follow the Moonstone), with Garbarek's sax and Kashkashian's viola (fiddle?) meshing together with a haunting beauty. Its only concession to the 21st century is represented by an underpinning but muted, shuffling, sampled trip-hop beat (see ECM stablemate Nils Petter Molvær for more examples). Other high points include the very short but all-encompassing solo If you go far enough, a piece as out of time as the great but also brief Mirror Stone from the aforementioned Legend and also featured on the first ECM New Series compilation - a predictor, I wonder, of how the saxophonist would bestride both imprints. Knot of place and time is hypnotic in the extreme, reminding me of the shamanic nature of much of this music; see Michael Tucker's excellent musical biography of Garbarek, Deep Song, for further elucidation. The whole sequence on the disc hangs together very much as an unstated suite, with the adoption of the viola proving an inspired diversion. To borrow from the estimable contemporary composer Judith Weir, we are very much in the realms of "distance and enchantment". The individual track titles say nothing and everything. The music is as if it has always been there just waiting to be "drawn down", a concept espoused in the past by people as diverse as Edmund Rubbra and the group New Order (formerly Joy Division). Jan Garbarek might be "filed" under a jazz label but the reality is far more complex. A mythic (as in archetypal rather than fabricated) line seems to exist on which his musical psyche can travel from the Nordic/Celtic fringes of Eurasia through the Balkans and Caucasus to the Indian subcontinent and back again at will. On this record, as on most of his releases in the last ten to fifteen years, he seems to have tapped in to our deep-seated, subconscious ancestral memories. When I first heard In Praise of Dreams it felt like a kind of coming home, the same feeling I got when reading the aforementioned Thursbitch.

By turns stimulating, challenging, reassuring, calming, cathartic, Garbarek's music has never been as relevant, as necessary as it is today. It is a superb antidote to the vapid and threadbare machinations of what regularly passes for contemporary culture.

Neil Horner

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