It’s fitting that the 500th ECM release should feature the work of the musician who has done so much to develop the contemplative yet passionate ECM aesthetic. Beginning with a soaring example of his current interest in film composition, and ending with a tender look back at Witchi Tai To – the late Jim Pepper’s stirring transcription of a peyote vision chant, first recorded by Garbarek in 1973 and long a performance favourite of his – Twelve Moons offers a generous sampling of Garbarek’s musical concerns.
The variety of material makes Twelve Moons more akin to a concert recording than some earlier Garbarek releases, with their often taut unity of mood: there’s an intriguing – and unusual – sense of the saxophonist taking broad stock of things.
Trees reminds one of the roots of a good deal of Garbarek’s music in Ayler, even as its ascensional pathos (and title) brings the Rilkean overtones of the 1983 Spor to mind. Parts of the exquisitely balanced, soprano-led Swallows recall the poise and potency of Weather Report at their best, as does the relaxed vamp of Gautes-Margjit, where Garbarek and the impressive, firm-handed Katché embroider broad folk melody to irresistible effect. The one step up, one step down modality of the intense Brother Wind (previously recorded in a more legato version on Legend Of The Seven Dreams in 1988) is a close cousin of late fifties and early sixties Davis and Coltrane, while Arietta‘s delicate, Grieg-derived reflections are reminiscent of Garbarek’s contributions to Jarrett’s 1977 My Song. Continuing where the Saami-inspired He Comes From The North (1988) and Rahkki Sruvvis (1990) left off, the ecstatic, joik-like affirmation of Huhai combines with Gautes-Margjit, Psalm and Darvanan to emphasise the strong – and diverse – Nordic element in Garbarek’s mature conception.
Thoroughly recommended, both to long-term enthusiasts and anyone who wishes to sample the poetry of this exceptional musician for the first time.
Twelve Moons (Part one: Winter-Summer. Part two: Summer-Winter); Psalm; Brother Wind March; There Were Swallows…; The Tall Tear Trees; Arietta; Gautes-Margjit; Darvánan; Huhai; Witchi Tai To (75.40)
Jan Garbarek (ts/ss/syn) with Manu Katché (d); Marilyn Mazur (pc); Agnes Buen Garnas, Mari Boine (v); Eberhard Weber (b); Rainer Bruninghaus (p/syn). Oslo. September 1992.