<< -- 2 -- Rex Harley HONED AND PRACTISED
So, what we were treated to was essentially a trip through the back catalogue, including some of the best material from albums such as Twelve Moons, Legend of the Seven Dreams and Visible World. Nothing was a carbon copy of the familiar however. A change of tempo here, a different voicing there kept everything fresh. I find, at times, an over-sweetness in some of the melodies but this is always offset by the distinctive Jan Garbarek sound.
It seems hard to believe now, but the great early influence was Coltrane. You get hints still, when he ventures into the lower registers of the tenor saxophone, but his instrument of preference these days is the soprano: that beautiful miniature version of the tenor, curved and gleaming like its full-size counterpart. And the sounds Garbarek elicits from it are unmistakable. It is his voice and, by extension, the voice of the North. His phrasing is spacious. Great arcing swirls of sounds fill the hall, piercing, strong but full of delicacy too. Even on tenor his preference is for the highest register, sometimes pushing the capabilities of the instrument further than one would believe possible.
But none of this is showmanship; virtuosity for its own sake. Similarly, no piece is allowed to ramble away at will, or any of the musicians hijack it for their own ends. Even the solos are crafted so they give the performer as much time and space as needed without tipping the balance away from the concert as a whole. Eberhard Weber's was an astounding demonstration of what his idiosyncratic cross between the double- and electric bass can do. Like Garbarek, some of the highest notes defy belief. How can he make sounds which are patently musical below the instrument's bridge, for example? But he does, as well as a range of other noises which he throws in with consummate elegance and wit.
Copyright © 25 November 2004
Rex Harley, Cardiff UK