Jan Garbarek/Keith Jarrett – Belonging – ECM Records ECM 1050 ST (1974/2015) [distr. by Universal Music Group] 180-gram stereo vinyl, 46:30 ****1/2:
(Keith Jarrett – piano; Jan Garbarek – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Palle Danielsson – double bass; Jon Christensen – drums)
Keith Jarrett’s stardom is routinely associated with his brilliant catalog of solo recordings. The pianist’s stellar improvisational talent has elevated him to iconic status. However, he began his distinguished career as a part of various jazz ensembles. In particular, his earliest sessions included work with Art Blakey, Charles Lloyd and Miles Davis. In the 1970’s, Jarrett collaborated in a trio with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock. He also recorded in a trio with Paul Motion and Charlie Haden. Eventually Dewey Redman was added to what became known as Jarrett’s “American Quartet”. This ensemble recorded for approximately eight years. Amazingly, Jarrett formed a “European Quartet” that he led concurrently with the American one. Not surprisingly, Manfred Eicher and ECM Records became the vehicle for this group that included Jan Garbarek (saxophones), Palle Danielsson (bass) and Jon Christensen (drums). The musical framework shifted from avant-grade and pure improvisational jazz to one that embraced classical and folk influences.
ECM Records has released a 180-gram vinyl re-mastering of Belonging. This was Keith Jarrett’s first (of four) projects with Jan Garbarek and his trio. The musical interaction is refined with a nod to contemporary erudition on six Jarrett compositions. Side 1 opens with a finger-snapping arrangement on “Spiral Dance”, kicked off with a punctuated bluesy vamp. Garbarek handles the first solo with assured emphasis, as Jarrett, Danielsson and Christensen form a gritty rhythm section. Next, Danielsson solos nimbly, almost like a guitar. The quartet reprises the opening refrain as Jarrett muscles up on the left hand. Many Jarrett fans will recognize “Blossom” from his live performances. His ethereal intro flows into Garbarek’s fluid lead on this lyrical ballad. Jarrett counters with impeccable chord phrasing, as Christensen shades with his reticent cymbal work. Jarrett’s solo captures the tender essence of the melody. There are sparkling right hand runs, with unusual higher-register notation. After a double bass solo. he returns with a spiritual-infused run. When the sax rejoins, there is a silken elegance that permeates the jam. In a stark contrast, “‘Long As You Know You-re Living Yours” is funky and hook-driven. From the opening gospel rhythms to the full-bodied tenor solo, this arrangement approximates rock/jazz agility and coolness. (Note: Some astute listeners may pick up the melodic “coincidence” to a more popular song by a prominent rock band). The overall soul groove is sustained with a nuanced tempo uptick.
Side 2 changes the band dynamic again. The brief (2:12) title track is a complex piece. After an achingly beautiful piano intro, the remainder of the song has jazzy chording and a ruminative light vibrato saxophone lead that explores some classical motifs. “The Wind Up” is a high-octane soulful romp with crisp rhythms. Drummer Christensen manages to sustain the momentum with great timing. Jarrett kicks off a solo featuring extensive right hand notation. As the bass joins in, it is like a post-bop piano trio. Jarrett has another spirited run before Garbarek reunites in a dual lead. There is an aggressive flourish at the conclusion. The finale (“Solstice”) represents the complicated and improvisational prowess of the quartet. Jarrett begins with a “free-jazz’ classical riff while Garbarek’s harsher timbre explores an avant-garde context. He can stretch out the tonality and then dial it back Jarrett solos with some dissonance. Double bass and drums create a poly-rhythmic fusion leading into a meditative Jarrett solo. A classic “repeat” accent is also a nice touch.
ECM has done its customary “open space acoustics” production and engineering. The pristine mix glows with refinement and allows for bursts of edgy resonance. The intimacy of the music is palpable. The 12” album cover with Tadayuki Naito’s striking design is compelling. There are no hisses, pops or surface noise on this vinyl pressing.
Side 1: Spiral Dance; Blossom; ‘Long As You Know You’re Living Yours
Side 2: Belonging; The Windup; Solstice