JJ 10/93: Jan Garbarek Group – Twelve Moons

Thirty years ago Michael Tucker noted in Garbarek's music resonances of Ayler, Davis, Coltrane, Weather Report, Grieg and Nordic folk. First published in Jazz Journal October 1993


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.
(ECM 1500)