…Luminessence is a remarkable achievement that has not dated at all.

ECM 1049 / 552 3885

Jan Garbarek (Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone); Strings of Suedfunk Symphony Orchestra StuttgartOrchestra; Mladen Gutesha – Conductor

Recorded April 1974, Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg

At the time of this recording, Garbarek was a member of Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet and so the two would have spent much time playing and listening to each other. This fact comes across strongly in Jarrett’s writing for the saxophonist with three pieces for string orchestra and improvising musician.

The rapport between Jarrett and Garbarek is so strong it is impossible to imagine anyone else playing this music. Jarrett has got right to the heart of the music in his beautiful, stirring and at times enigmatic writing and the saxophonist is given a wonderful canvas for his improvisations.

The Garbarek sound is now firmly established, the keening sound of both soprano and tenor saxophones with their impassioned and vocal cries that reach deep into the soul. The score allows the saxophonist to follow his own path, and any sense of linear development is left to the string orchestra as Garbarek casts his phrases in the air.

The opening ‘Numinor’ has its moments of darkness, but lifted by the strings the tenor saxophone throws caution to the wind and the last third of composition has some declamatory statements from Garbarek.

Similarly, the shorter ‘Windsong’ that features the soprano saxophone moves from its lyrical and lush opening theme to a more turbulent passage with Jarrett creating a drone for Garbarek to improvise over.

The final piece on the album is the most overtly joyous, and possibly the most satisfying. The opening by the strings is quite dramatic making effective use of the lower register members of the orchestra that then opens up in to a rich and full musical tapestry setting up Garbarek’s most lyrical and expansive solo.

As the mood lightens in the orchestral arrangement, so the saxophonist follows suit, bring to a close a spectacular what must surely be regarded as a three-part suite.

Jarrett must have been pleased with the results as was producer Manfred Eicher, and six months later Jarrett and Garbarek would be back in the studio with bassist Charlie Haden and Members of the RSO Stuttgart to record Arbour Zena, with Jarrett this time playing piano as well as having composed the music.

Listening again to Luminessence one marvels at the detail in the orchestration and the playing of Jan Garbarek. ECM was a still a relatively new label at the time of recording this ambitious work and both Jarrett and Garbarek were not thirty years old. If much of their best work was still ahead of them, then Luminessence is a remarkable achievement that has not dated at all.