Jazz (7): Jan Garbarek and the black swan

If your jazz paradigm is the American black musician from a relatively deprived background, Jan Garbarek is a black swan.

Norwegian, middle class and austere in his image, Garbarek has been around, and been successful, for a long time. Initially he had a touch of one of the Knife’s favourites, the enigmatic figure of Albert Ayler, and ended up very commercially successful with stuff like Officium (OK, but…).

The best of Garbarek is a mix of occasional dissonance with exceptional melodic skills, and in that sense he resembles, oddly enough, mid-period Coltrane or David S Ware .

All this was brought on by listening to the remarkable live album, Dresden, with a quite brilliant band –  special credits to Rainer Bruninghaus on piano. Europe, particularly France, Germany and Scandinavia, become a home from home for a lot of American jazzmen, who made some money and were rightly feted in a way that often didn’t happen back home. Musicians like Garbarek are in part a result of that diaspora.

Seriously, if you can’t stand bebop, free jazz, trad, all that….try Garbarek. The video is him playing live from about the same time.




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