ECM has released two more of its neat white Old & New Masters boxes containing three discs each from the back catalogues of its core artists.
For those whose interest in Jan Garbarek’s early 1970s creations has been rejuvenated by the recent release of the superb Sleeper, from Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet, there is much of interest in Dansere, which contains that album from ’75 together with Witchi-Tai-To from ’73 and Sart from ’71.
The rhythm team on the two later albums is the same as in the Jarrett band – Palle Danielsson on bass and Jon Christensen on drums – with Bobo Stenson on piano. Without Jarrett the mood is not quite so intense, but there are still many gorgeous moments, and the cohesion of the Nordic band means the flow of ideas and the balancing of dynamics is exemplary.
Dansere is dominated by Garbarek’s own writing and the 15-minute title track is an obvious focus. It moves through its chilly landscape smoothly with rises and falls in energy, and admirable spaciousness.
In Witchi-Tai-To Garbarek chooses to cover other composers, including Carla Bley’s A.I.R., the lovely Native American title track from Jim Pepper, and a 20-minute exploration of Don Cherry’s Desireless.
This last begins as an almost zen-like wander with Stenson leading in with a waterscape of tinkling arpeggios, Garbarek poignant and dignified on tenor, Danielsson on arco bass and Christensen rattling the African percussion. The leader then increases the physicality of the search for serenity with a richer, almost Gato Barbieri-ish throat to his tone, the bass lays down a rolling pattern and we’re off on the slow build to an intensity that suggests heavy Coltrane Quartet influence, especially in Stenson’s Tyneresque piano.
Sart is a different ballgame entirely. It’s more experimental and the electric guitar of Terje Rypdal, together with the more forceful bass on Arild Andersen and Garbarek’s use of multiphonics and near screams, gives it much more of a free jazz-rock ambience.
With the Rypdal box, Odyssey In Studio & In Concert, we really are fully enveloped by the spirit of prog rock – or at least the Norwegian guitarist’s assimilation of its sounds – particularly the spacey, sustained electric guitar played high up the fretboard – and its moods into his own jazz and classical compositional sensibility.
The band in the booklet pictures looks fully in tune with the times – long hair, skinny jackets, loon pants, posing in the mist in front of their old band van – but in the studio – and on stage – goes so much further than the prog rockers, and in a much more interesting direction.
Their music might be endlessly searching but it’s never pompous or pretentious.
The box contains the two-LP 1975 Odyssey album – here for the first time in its entirety on two CDs- plus Unfinished Highballs, which is a live performance from ’76 in which the band is augmented by a jazz orchestra, the Swedish Radio Jazz Group. This acts as a real showcase for Rypdal’s increasingly ambitious compositions, full of rich dark sounds multi-layered upon one another and often featuring his soaring guitar over the top.
It actually sounds remarkably contemporary.
Both boxes are full of great stuff and at bargain prices. Go discover!