Esoteric sleaze

I wish life could be Swedish magazines.

Jan Garbarek
Esoteric Circle
Flying Dutchman : 1969

JG, tenor sax; Terje Rypdal, guitar; Arild Andersen, bass; Jon Chrisensen, drums.

Chilly Jay Chill: Jan Garbarek made some wonderfully free music at the beginning of his career. Why are you laughing?

Prof. Drew LeDrew: No, sorry. Of course. Yes. You were saying?

Most people only know Garbarek for his later and best-selling ECM work. As well as his role in forging the trademark ECM sound.

Ah, the ECM sound. A pristine, air-brushed, vacuum-sealed tone that’s so clean you could eat off it.

You could deliver babies on it. And it’s sucked the life out of many otherwise fine performances. I won’t cast aspersions by calling it “Nordic” or “Teutonic,” but generally there’s something too antiseptic about the label’s productions for my taste. Except for the earliest releases, which are a breed apart, and not generally in-house recordings. All to say, if you think you already know Garbarek, these tracks may be a revelation.

“Karin’s Mode” — that track’s on that kozmigroov-y Jazz Satellites compilation we’ve highlighted before. It’s the best sort of fusion, carving out its synthesis of styles on its own terms.

You can hear the influence of Coltrane on Garbarek’s playing. And the influence of Hendrix on Terje Rypdal’s impressive guitar work. The sort of grit and fire not normally associated with them.

Terje rocks hard. It’s his performance on “Rabalder” that makes it the pick to click for me.

That’s the one that starts with an extended drum solo, hm?

Yes, I know how you feel about drum solos; I feel the same way. But in this case, you get it over with right at the start, and it works more as a momentum-builder than song-stopper. Garbarek sets the tone. And then Rypdal lets it ryp.

. . . .

DLD: Garbarek’s tone is kind of sleazy, isn’t it.

Yes. It is totally sleazy. Wonderfully, stankily, Times-Square-’68ily sleazy.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $

Noted: At around this same time, ’68/69, an augmented version of this group played on George Russell‘s Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature (1968), more on which anon.

And: Flying Dutchman was the label started in 1969 by producer Bob Thiele, after he left Impulse.Â

Category Jan Garbarek

6 Responses to Esoteric sleaze

  1. “And then Rypdal lets it ryp”

    *groan* :)

    Hey, this drum solo is good! Generally speaking, I don’t understand why more drum solos aren’t accompanied.

  2. Of course, if they were accompanied, they wouldn’t, strictly speaking, be solos. But I agree; it is pretty good. That it comes at the very beginning is a huge plus. That way we avoid the mid-song clear-cutting that a certain kind of overblown drum solo can generate. Also, snark aside, I do like accompanied solos; in general, and this seems a strange thing to concede, I’m not a big solo fan, preferring overall group improv/interactions. There are major exceptions to this, of course.

    And as for “ryp” — so sorry, I know puns are the lowest form of comedy, but I’m constitutionally unable to avoid them. Btw, thanks for talking us up at Citizen Jazz….

  3. I just find it a bit unfair that drummers almost always have to generate everything themselves. As you say, the mid-song drum solo can be an unwelcome shift. Accompaniment makes it flow easier with the rest.

  4. Nice to hear this stuff. Garbarek’s early music is fantastic, and he continued to play well into his days with Jarrett, though even then he’d lost a little of the edge evident in these tracks. But then….a seismic shift. Not sure what made him change his approach. As for the “ECM sound,” it’s not all bad, as the recent slate of Motian/Lovano releases–among others–proves.

  5. This is light years away from the meandering fjord worrying stuff I’m used to..excellent

  6. Yeah, fantastic record. This and the first few under Garbarek’s name one ECM (Afric Pepperbird, SART, Tryptikon and Witchi-Tai-To) represent, for me, the peak of these guys’ music. OK, maybe “Dansere”, too….

    That Russell disc has its moments as well, though the attempts at rock are a bit clunky. Similarly with his “Living Time” from a few years later, with Bill Evans.