ECM 1007 / 450 5317

Jan Garbarek (Tenor Saxophone, Bass Saxophone, Clarinet, Flutes, Percussion); Terje Rypdal (Guitar, Bugle); Arild Andersen (Bass, African Thumb Piano, Xylophone); Jon Christensen (Percussion)

Recorded September 1970, Arne Bendiksen Studio, Oslo

For those only familiar with Garbarek’s work from Keith Jarrett’s Belonging Quartet and the saxophonist’s albums with Bobo Stenson, then this album will come as a bit f a shock.

Here we have Jan Garbarek the multi-instrumentalist. No soprano yet, and the saxophonist is still very much under the spell of Coltrane and Archie Shepp. Now regarded as the end of Garbarek’s free jazz period along with the follow up Triptykon many followers of his later work will find his tenor sound raw and almost unrefined in its ferocity.

The glue that holds the music together is often to heard in the contribution of guitarist Rypdal as his colleagues explore different tonalities and rhythmic ideas on each of the compositions. Bassist Arild Andersen has some fine solos, and his playing can be a rock in the centre of the action or looking to stir things up with the imaginative Jon Christensen.

As for the saxophonist, this is where we hear him processing influences. Before long he will have found his own voice, settled on tenor and soprano saxophones as his primary instruments, and looked inwards at his own self-editing mechanism to establish the lean and economical player that we are all so familiar with.

The compositions, mostly by Garbarek and Andersen, are open ended and this gives everyone chance to contribute the group feel of the music as well as offer up solo statements. ‘Blow Away Zone’ is aptly titled and the miniatures ‘MYB’ and ‘Concentus’ (both written by Andersen, incidentally) offer a glimpse of how the music may develop over time.

The latter is a lovely arrangement for overdubbed flute and clarinet accompanied by double bass before the title track bursts upon us with a driving rock guitar intro before settling into a loosely structured piece by Garbarek that hints at the saxophonist’s broader compositional concept. It is also a rare and fascinating opportunity to hear Garbarek on bass saxophone.

The longest track on the album, ‘Beast of Kommodo’ is perhaps the most satisfying and perhaps Garbarek intended this to be the focus piece of the set. This is a trend that would continue as many of his recordings have one long track as the centrepiece, and often appear to neatly sum up the concept behind each of the albums in that one piece.

This is indeed the case with ‘Beast of Kommodo’ as Garbarek explores the full range of his tenor saxophone, wild and passionate cries, forays into the altissimo register and long held notes. Not yet the use of silence that would become such an important part of his vocabulary a few short years later, but certainly indications of a search for his own means of expression.

A fine re-issue in its own right, it is also an important reminder of Jan Garbarek’s development from a Coltrane disciple and an interest in free playing to his moving away from the influence of American jazz musicians to looking inwards at his own European heritage as a basis for increasingly personal improvisational style.