Jan Garbarek - A Sense Of Belonging

Jan Garbarek’s English tour this month, culminating in a London Jazz Festival appearance at the Royal Festival Hall on 18 November, will feature, for the first time in this country his new group with drummer Manu Katché and bassist Yuri Daniel. Yet, despite the changes in personnel, Garbarek’s unique vision as a composer and performer has remained constant since the early breakthroughs in his career. Undoubtedly the key saxophonist in European jazz and a role model for Scandinavian musicians since the 1970s, Stuart Nicholson talks to Jan exclusively for Jazzwise about his early inspirations and the course of a remarkable career which has changed the face of European jazz. Jan Garbarek - A Sense Of Belonging
Early on in his career, Jan Garbarek was hailed by composer, pianist and arch conceptualist George Russell as the most original voice in European jazz since Django Reinhardt. And on albums Russell recorded during his European sojourn in the 1960s, such as The Essence of George Russell (1966), Othello Ballet Suite (1967) or Electronic Sonata for Souls Love by Nature (1968), Garbarek’s distinctive saxophone showed every promise of living up to the claim. Even as a teenager playing alongside his saxophone hero Bernt Rosengren in Russell’s big band on The Essence it was clear he was destined for great things, “You could hear he was going to be special,” Rosengren would recall later. “He was so young, but he already has such good technique. And he was so free in his attitude: already a fine improviser and very open to different ways in music.”

Today, Russell’s prophetic remark does not seem wide of the mark. Garbarek’s influence can be heard in countless saxophone players, from the late Mike Brecker to the UK’s own Andy Sheppard, his recordings with his own groups have virtually defined Scandinavian jazz while his collaboration with Keith Jarrett in the 1970s took, according to Jarrett’s biographer Ian Carr, “the art of the classic jazz quartet to its highest pinnacle.” And, in more recent times against the current backdrop of a general market decline in CD sales, he successfully bucked the trend with sales of over a million units with the album Officium. In November he is one of the headliners at the London Jazz Festival and embarks on a short UK tour.

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