Thursday, May 3, 2018

Isao Suzuki Quartet + 1 - 1974 - Blue City

Isao Suzuki Quartet + 1 
Blue City

01. Body And Soul 9:24
02. 45th Street At 8th Avenue 11:08
03. Play Fiddle Play 10:16
04. Blue City 10:06

Recorded March 4 1974 at Aoi Studio, Tokyo.

Bass, Cello – Isao Suzuki
Drums – Tetsujiro Obara
Guitar – Kazumi Wanatabe
Piano – Kunihiko Sugano
Bass - Nobuyoshi Ino

Another fine example of Japanese jazz from the mid-1970s, this set is led by cellist and bassist Isao Suzuki and features the earliest recorded performances of guitarist Kazumi Watanabe. Four tracks make up the recording, of which two are covers, the opening standard "Body and Soul" (complete with opening melody played on the bass) and "Play Fiddle Play," and two originals, which stack up very well against such classic material. This set was a follow-up to a huge breakthrough album for Suzuki called Blow Up, recorded a year earlier in 1973. Along with his standard setup with Watanabe, pianist Kunihiko Sugano, and Tetsujiroh Obara on drums, Suzuki, in order to use the cello more fully within the small group setting, added bassist Nobuyoshi Ino on two tracks, including "Body and Soul." What's most compelling about the music made in Japan during that era is that the notion that all jazz had to swing, swing, swing seems almost perverse now in contrast to the stilted, dated sounding riffs that the current American jazzmen heralded as saviors of the music. While free jazz, groove jazz, and jazz/rock fusion were sweeping the popular template in America and Europe, the Japanese, as evidenced here, were listening with reverence (perhaps too much) to the roots of the music. "Body and Soul" and "Play Fiddle Play" have been done by so many hundreds of artists, that it's tough to stack up these versions except to say that they are played with aplomb and emotion. But it's the originals that make Suzuki's group stand out and sound current even in the 21st century. "45th Street (at 8th Ave.)" features the cello as a saxophone, coursing through the melody with fluidity and grace, creating a resonant mode for the band to climb in under. Ino's bass is a lovely counterpart to the tinny sound of the cello being played pizzicato, and Watanabe sounds like Wes Montgomery in his George Shearing days. The rest is as gently swinging and solid with the band becoming a quartet with Suzuki on bass for the last two tracks. In all, it's no masterpiece, but it is an excellent jazz record, made at a time when jazz as it was known in the 1950s and 1960s was a memory. And that it sounds current today is a testament in itself to its quality.

Isao Suzuki Trio / Quartet - 1973 - Blow Up

Isao Suzuki Trio / Quartet
Blow Up

01. Aqua Marine 4:54
02. Everything Happens To Me 5:43
03. Blow Up 7:28
04. Like It Is 5:34
05. I Can't Get Started 4:58
06. Low Flight 5:36

Recorded March 29, 30, 1973

Bass – Takashi Mizuhashi
Bass, Cello – Isao Suzuki
Drums – George Otsuka
Piano – Kunihiko Sugano

A fantastic electric album from one of the most unique bassists of the 70s – Blow Up is one of the most sough-after titles from the acclaimed Three Blind Mice catalog. Isao Suzuki's Blow-Up is virtuosity and class all rolled up into one. A great combination of upbeat blues and mellow grooves! The album was awarded "Jazz of Japan" Award and the Jazz Disc Award of "Swing Journal" in 1973.
"This adventurous set finds Suzuki and his band mates (drummer George Otsuka, pianist Kunihiko Sugano, and bassist Takashi Mizuhashi) working through three originals and three classic standards ("Everything Happens To Me", "Like It Is", and "I Can't Get Started"), merging classic hard bop principles with unusual touches (scratching cello and found percussion sweeps on "Aqua Marine"), all captured with the kind of supreme fidelity Three Blind Mice would later be heralded for. - Impex

“Few, if any, international audiophile jazz recordings have maintained the kind of deep and profound influence over techniques and even entire label repertoire as Three Blind Mice’s. The of-the-moment realism of Yoshihiko Kannari’s recordings and production aesthetic of producer and label head Takeshi “Tee” Fujii have been the benchmark to match. It is to their immense credit that Blow Up, Midnight Sugar and Misty have yet to be matched, even 40 years later. …

Isao Suzuki's Blow-Up is virtuosity and class all rolled up into one! A great combination of upbeat blues and mellow grooves, the album was awarded the 'Jazz of Japan Award' and the 'Jazz Disk Award' from Swing Journal in 1973.” – MusicDirect"

Jan Garbarek - 1982 - Paths, Prints

Jan Garbarek 
Paths, Prints

01. The Path 7:11
02. Footprints 10:03
03. Kite Dance 5:33
04. To B.E. 3:08
05. The Move 6:39
06. Arc 5:02
07. Considering The Snail 6:30
08. Still 6:16

Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones, wood flutes, percussion
Bill Frisell guitar
Eberhard Weber bass
Jon Christensen drums, percussion

Recorded December 1981, Talent Studio, Oslo

December of 1981 was a magical month for ECM, producing such treasures as Psalm and Opening Night. On Paths, Prints, however, Manfred Eicher raised the bar yet again in bringing together another of his unique dream teams. Jan Garbarek, Bill Frisell, Eberhard Weber, and Jon Christensen in the same studio? Engineering complexities aside, one need only have hit Record, taken a nap, and awoken to masterful results. Throughout this session, Garbarek’s sharply defined reveries prove the perfect fulcrum for Frisell’s broadly sweeping clock hands. Garbarek also exposes a softer side, as in the whispered edges of “The Path” and “Arc,” and in the seesawing contours of “Still.” The painterly movements of “Kite Dance,” on the other hand, foreground Weber’s globules of sound against the blush and heartwarming soloing of Frisell’s omnipresent guitar. Not too far behind are “Footprints,” which shows Christensen in an especially colorful mood, and “The Move,” which pours on Garbarek’s signature lilt like heavy cream. Certainly his most effective passages are also the most intimate: “Considering The Snail” and “To B.E.,” the latter a duet with Frisell, are concave, while their surroundings are convex.

One can easily fall into the trap of painting ECM jazz as forlorn, breezy, and overwhelmingly lonesome. Yet one journey through Paths, Prints is all it takes to realize that the music is always our companion.

Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson, Jon Christensen - 1981 - Nude Ants

Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson, Jon Christensen
Nude Ants (Live At The Village Vanguard)

01. Chant Of The Soil 16:58
02. Innocence 8:17
03. Processional 20:35
04. Oasis 30:36
05. New Dance 12:40
06. Sunshine Song 11:38

Keith Jarrett piano, timbales, percussion
Jan Garbarek saxophones
Palle Danielsson bass
Jon Christensen drums, percussion

Recorded May 1979 at the Village Vanguard, New York

Something about Keith Jarrett’s very presence seems to draw out from even the most highly regarded musicians unexpected levels of performance, commitment, and above all faith in the musical moment. Nude Ants, easily one of his most uplifting live dates (this time at the Village Vanguard) on record and the pinnacle of his quartet activities, exemplifies this to the nth degree.

In its European incarnation, Jarrett’s menagerie of yesteryear opens its gates quietly and smoothly with “Chant Of The Soil.” Jarrett digs in alongside one of the most engaging rhythm sections one could ask for (Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen). The liveness of the performance comes across early in “Innocence.” Amid clinking glasses and the even more cacophonous spirits of appreciation of those drinking from them, an enthralling intro from keys tosses Jan Garbarek’s exposition like a salad of bright energies. The moonlit “Processional” burrows beyond the trappings of a ballad and into a cavernous subconscious. Jarrett’s singing teases out a vivid pedal point as he punches chords like ecstasy’s time clock before floating off in reverie.

The second half of this heavy loaf slices much like the first: in slabs of wing-beats and half-words. Garbarek shines in “Oasis,” his reed shawm-like and opaque, as he wrenches out some of his most ecstatic high notes on record. Out of this measured catharsis Jarrett waters his colors in a solo tour de force. After the upbeat “New Dance,” the drawl that begins “Sunshine Song” is hardly enough to keep the band from pulling back a slingshot of dynamism and hurtling its contents skyward. Mounting intensities from Christensen underscore a fluttering resolution. And yet, as with everything in this set, it is tempered by an intense feeling of perpetuity that renders every potential end into a pathway of renewal.

In spite—if not because—of the idiosyncratic strengths of its performers, this is ensemble jazz at its freshest. Jarrett’s vocal leaps are nearly as adventurous as his fingers, proving once again that such passion cannot be contained in a vessel so modest as the human lung. Garbarek lets loose in ways seldom heard outside of Sart, while Danielsson and Christensen are so good together that I would be nearly as content listening to just the two of them for the entire set. Everyone here is aflame. Together, they light the world.

An indispensible classic.

Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti, Charlie Haden - 2012 - Magico: Carta De Amor

Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti, Charlie Haden
Magico: Carta De Amor

101. Carta De Amor 7:25
102. La Pasionara 16:26
103. Cego Aderaldo 9:50
104. Folk Song 8:09
105. Don Quixote 8:25
106. Spor 14:01

201. Branquinho 7:37
202. All That Is Beautiful 15:35
203. Palhaço 9:12
204. Two Folk Songs 3:39
205. Carta De Amor, Var. 7:35

Double Bass – Charlie Haden
Guitar [Guitars], Piano – Egberto Gismonti
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Jan Garbarek

Recorded live April 1981, Amerikahaus, München

“I know that the stars when I vanish will remain pegged way up there, fixed, immutable, gazing on the absurd hustle and bustle of men, small and ridiculous, striving with each other during the sole second of life allotted them to learn and to know about themselves, wasting it stupidly, killing one another, the ones fighting to avert exploitation by the others.”
–Dolores Ibárruri

2012 has seen quite the magic act of releases from ECM’s archives. The encore comes literally so in the case of Magico: Carta de Amor, as the trio of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti, and bassist Charlie Haden takes the stage in newly restored 1981 performances at Munich’s Amerika Haus, host to such classic recordings as Ralph Towner’s Solo Concert and the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Urban Bushmen. From their studio work, these three mavericks draw a distinct blend of signatures, while from the two years spent touring prior to this recording they accomplish feats of improvisation that perhaps no studio could have induced or contained.

Bookended by two versions of Gismonti’s title track, a beautiful love letter indeed to the wonders within, Haden’s 16.5-minute tribute to Dolores Ibárruri, “La Pasionaria,” lends substance to the feathers in between. The entrance of bass is as effortless as it is invisible, dropping into the foreground as it does from the line of Garbarek’s ornamental reed. Changing his Liberation Music Orchestra clothing for something more romantic, Haden offers “All That Is Beautiful” (making its first appearance on record), an emotionally epic vehicle for Gismonti, who takes seat at the keyboard and sprinkles it with clouds and weighted dew.

If these are the tire tracks left behind, then “Cego Aderaldo” is the vehicle that left them. Driven by the 12 focused strings of its composer, it keeps us balanced along the album’s craggiest terrain. Here Garbarek does something wondrous as he opens the passenger-side door and jumps over the cliff, spreading burnished metal wings across a landscape that welcomes his flight with thermals galore. Gismonti continues on, spiraling up to the apex. There he plants not a flag of conquest, but seeds of thanksgiving. From the dulcet “Branquinho,” with its distant ideas of brotherhood, to the shining reprise of “Palhaço,” his fulfilling melodies bring out the playful best in Garbarek. If there were ever any doubts about the group’s unity, let “Don Quixote” stand as Exhibit A toward quelling them. Like the novel for which it is named, it is a critique of belittlement and insincerity in a society gone mad. It moves at the leisurely pace of a mule whose grandeur resides not without but within.

Garbarek gives us a triangle of stars, including folk song arrangements that whistle through dynamic peaks and valleys and a fully opened rendition of “Spor” (compare this to its infancy in the studio on Magico). To this mysterious canvas, Garbarek applies shadow on shadow, seeking out wounds of color in the language of his band mates before diving into repose.

While the unity expressed by these musicians is surely enthralling, it comes closest to perfection in the monologues. Garbarek’s energy is, if I may appropriate a Douglas Hofstadter subtitle, an eternal golden braid—one that nourishes itself on the light of which it is made, self-replicating and beyond the measure of value. Haden unfolds themes fractally. Trundling through empty streets with dog-eared book in hand and love in its margins, he brings closure to uprisings of the heart. Gismonti, for his part, is as breath is to lungs.

Let their individuality inspire you to action.

Charlie Haden, Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti - 1981 - Folk Songs

Charlie Haden, Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti 
Folk Songs

01. Folk Song 8:12
02. Bôdas De Prata 4:44
03. Cego Aderaldo 7:54
04. Veien 7:50
05. Equilibrista 8:36
06. For Turiya 7:42

Charlie Haden: bass
Jan Garbarek: saxophones
Egberto Gismonti: guitars, piano

Recorded November 1979 at Talent Studio, Oslo

This scintillating follow-up album to Magico is yet another fine example of ECM’s progressive comings together. Uniting multi-instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti with the instantly recognizable stylings of saxophonist Jan Garbarek and bassist Charlie Haden seems at once a stroke of genius and an inevitable configuration. A blue “Folk Song” sets the tone for all tender considerations that follow, slowly working its motions into a helix of atmospheres. Gismonti stretches out a gorgeous drawl in “Bôdas De Prata.” Within the open bowl of Garbarek’s cupped tenor, he glows like a firefly. The rhythmic acuity of “Cego Aderaldo” is enough to sustain an otherwise languid album. There is something special about the 12-string/sax combination here that recalls the label’s Solstice days and pairs beautifully with “Veien,” which gives us the album’s most reactive moments. Gismonti’s perpetuity, Garbarek’s crystalline phrasings, and Haden’s heartening geometries unify, appropriately enough, in “Equilibrista.” This cradle of rolling piano and melodic overlays falls from its bough in a melodious tumble, landing on its feet for the final word, which comes in the form of “For Turiya,” another ballad-like seesaw of piano and bass resting on the fulcrum of Garbarek’s nocturnal whispers.

Each of these precious musicians has the ability to paint the grandest pictures with the subtlest gestures. This tension of method and effect is at the heart of ECM’s ethos. In such projects, one feels producer Manfred Eicher’s conversational presence and guiding hand, both of which can only illuminate the joys of creation and the sharing thereof.

Jan Garbarek / Kjell Johnsen - 1980 - Aftenland

Jan Garbarek / Kjell Johnsen

01. Aftenland 7:14
02. Syn 6:42
03. Linje 1:58
04. Bue 2:04
05. Enigma 3:39
06. Kilden 7:33
07. Spill 4:21
08. Iskirken 6:48
09. Tegn 4:54

Organ [Pipe Organ], Music By – Kjell Johnsen
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Jan Garbarek

Recorded December 1979 at Engelbrektskyrkan, Stockolm

If improvisation is a form of meditation, then meditation is also a form of improvisation. In being at peace with what one plays, one lives it.

Jan Garbarek is, of course, one of ECM’s longest standing composers and saxophonists, yet he is first and foremost a spectacular improviser who often manages to reach farther than (I imagine) even his own expectations in touching new melodic concepts. Paired with the Spheres-like church organ of Kjell Johnsen, he plumbs the depths of spiritual and physical awareness in a way that few of his albums have since. Here more than anywhere else, he shapes reverberation into its own spiritualism, exploring every curve of his surrounding architecture, every carved piece of wood and masonry.

The title track opens with a viscous solemnity, ever in shadow, while “Syn” reaps even more intense crops from the ethereal harvest it has sown. A trio of miniatures clustered around the session’s center reaches even more intimately into its heartbeat. “Kilden” seems to drip from the chapel ceiling like a weeping fresco. Garbarek unveils the rare recorders for a more playful exchange in “Spill.” “Iskirken” grips the heart with its piercing keen, dividing cloud and rain with the light of grief that shines like no other in times of greatest darkness. Lastly, the hurdy-gurdy drone of “Tegn” strings a delicate safety net for Garbarek’s robust defenestration.

This album predates his later Officium project by fourteen years, but is in parts just as effective in its vaulted evocations of hidden chants and invisible voices. At times, it also reminds me of the Licht/Haino/Hamilton/MLW one-off, Gerry Miles, only with less turbulent folds.

This is a pensive album, an unsung classic in the Garbarek oeuvre, filled with more than enough revelations to lodge a place in your musical heart.

Jan Garbarek - 1978 - Places

Jan Garbarek

01. Reflections 15:05
02. Entering 7:50
03. Going Places 14:12
04. Passing 11:18

Jan Garbarek saxophones
Bill Connors guitar
John Taylor organ, piano
Jack DeJohnette drums

Recorded December 1977 at Talent Studio, Oslo

Places brings together another congregation of musicians that could only come from ECM. Drummer Jack DeJohnette lassoes his scurrying loops to the acoustic hooks of guitarist Bill Connors, while John Taylor supplements most of the cargo with organ. At the helm of this vessel is Jan Garbarek, whose saxophonism starts high and goes only higher. With cumulative notecraft and a heartfelt commitment to atmosphere, he and Taylor unwrap a lush nexus in the stunning opener. The occasional harmonic falls like a dandelion seed onto this pool of night as cymbals splash all around us. Taylor weaves a fine spread, anchoring us with sustained bass lines and attentive chording, leaving Garbarek to seal every crack with his sonic caulk. Connors seeks to light his surroundings, striking at the flint with his percussive gesticulations in hopes that one spark might show the way. Garbarek sharpens himself with arid flavor and carves out a miniature oasis in the crumbling image of exotic desire. The organ weaves in and out like a halo circumscribing us with subtle urgency until it pulls us beyond the point of no return, where dwells only silence in these “Reflections.” We then find the organ “Entering” into an electric guitar embrace. Bass and drums give us footholds where we might not expect to find them. Thus, what began as an elegy turns into a far-reaching journey that is over too soon. But in the next track we’re still “Going Places,” spurred by DeJohnette’s steady pulse and Garbarek’s hidden thermals. The energy comes in waves, subsiding here for a guitar solo and swelling there at Garbarek’s call. “Passing” ends where the album began, in a fluid ostinato of organ over which Connors looses his wavering song. Garbarek draws an ascendant pattern between those quiet strings, lifting us to an arena in which age curls into a semblance of time.

Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson, Jon Christensen - 1978 - My Song

Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson, Jon Christensen 
My Song 

01. Questar 9:11
02. My Song 6:10
03. Tabarka 9:12
04. Country 5:00
05. Mandala 8:18
06. The Journey Home 10:31

Keith Jarrett piano, percussion
Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones
Palle Danielsson bass
Jon Christensen drums

Recorded November 1977 at Talent Studio, Oslo

From the moment we step into the transport of Keith Jarrett’s European quartet, we know we are in for a comforting ride filled with lush scenery and temperate climes. “Questar” opens this set of six Jarrett originals by unfolding a melodic altar for the saxophonic offerings of Jan Garbarek, who trades prime invocations with Jarrett in a formula that pervades the rest of the album to great success. The gorgeous title track, in which we encounter a slightly mournful but always majestic invocation, widens the music’s embrace. Garbarek’s pleasing yet incisive tone works wonders and continues to lead the way in “Tabarka,” where nostalgia shares its berth with the dripping shadows of resolution, and which protects the Michael Naura-like buoyancy of “Country” like a dome over Palle Danielsson’s wonderful solo on bass.

Jarrett cultivates the talents of his fellow musicians in a garden rife with unique hybrids. While his left hand is firmly rooted in the soil of his rhythm section, his right seems to frolic in the rain that nourishes it, changing from liquid to gas and back to liquid in a perpetual cycle of self-renewal. He comes across as nothing less than perfection, sharing in this democratic spread of passion. The colorful scatterings of his solo in “Mandala,” for example, are made all the more so for the fantastic rhythm section backing him every step of the way. As Jarrett peaks with intensity, Garbarek arches his back like a sun flare, a whip cracking silently through time-space in slow motion, giving us an aftertaste of the Norwegian reedman at his early best. During another rich bass solo, Jarrett plucks the strings inside his piano as if to defuse the epiphany. After this palpable spurt of energy, “The Journey Home” breathes a sigh of relief and provides the album’s most gorgeous turns from Jarrett. Fluid as his song, his voice basks in the sunshine. Not to be outdone, Garbarek matches this elegiac acuity, at last fading into brushed cymbals.

The music of Keith Jarrett was already highly sustainable long before the concept became an obligatory buzzword. With My Song he brings that personal ecology in fullest force. Garbarek hardly sounds better than he does alongside the discerning piano man, and is here soulful, restrained, consolatory but also insistent, and never afraid to let loose once in a while. These are musicians bound by trust, which they express with every pellucid turn of phrase they utter on an album that represents one of ECM’s most stunning dates of the seventies.