Marilyn Mazur & Jan Garbarek – ECM

by | Apr 21, 2008 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Marilyn Mazur & Jan Garbarek – ECM B0010831-02 [Release date: Apr. 15, 08] ****:

(Jan Garbarek – tenor & soprano sax, flute; Marilyn Mazur – marimba, bowed vibes and waterphone, hang, bells, gongs, cymbals, magic drum, log drum, sheep bells, Indian cowbells, Udu drum, various drums & metal utensils)

This is the first album I downloaded from the Universal reviewers’ site and burned a CD-R instead of receiving the physical CD.  It took a lot more time and effort, but it sounds great and plays everywhere except my car. It’s always a treat to audition a new album from distinctive Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, who has worked with a wide variety of other performers – including the Hillier Vocal Ensemble.  But the big attraction here is his partner in the project, who is known as the Queen of Percussion. (There’s a new DVD  with that title about her from the Danish Film Institute.)

Marilyn Mazur is from New York but moved with her parents to Denmark at age six. As an adult she played everything from rock to jazz to theater music and became an innovator in world music, traveling the world and putting together a huge percussion instrument collection much as The Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart has done. She played with Miles Davis for five years and also toured with Wayne Shorter and Gil Evans. Mazur current performs with three bands of her own and spent 14 years as a member of Jan Garbarek’s band – so this CD is a result of the saxist inviting her back to share their longtime musical connections as a duo.

While a few of the 21 tracks are collaborations by Garbarek and Mazur, most are originals by Mazur. He only plays on about half of the 21 tracks. Since she mostly performs with orchestras and other larger aggregations, she wanted for this album to record something based on the instruments themselves – allowing each one to speak in its own voice. She was supported in this idea by ECM founder/producer Manfred Eicher.  She saw it as one of the oldest possible musical combinations – a wind instrument and a drum.  Since Mazur and Garbarek know each other’s styles and ideas so well, they were able to just freely play together and be outstandingly creative in their improvisations.

There have been solo albums by percussionists before which have been at least partially directed to the audiophile market. There was a stereo SACD on the Red Rose Music label which was interested for a few tracks but then palled due to it only being a basic drum set and no other players.  Another audiophile sampler from Japan paired up the percussionist with a different player on each track, which added some interest.  However, Garbarek is so skilled at fitting his solos in with whatever other musicians he is collaborating with that Elixir becomes a deeply satisfying exploration of subtle colorations and atmospherics, but with a dramatic expectancy that keeps your ears tuned to all the sounds being produced.  I should cop to the fact that I find most drum solos a bore, but I found Elixir fascinating.

The recording is of very high quality, but my only disappointment is that this isn’t a surround SACD – there was some talk about ECM finally releasing some SACDs and this one would surely be a prime choice for that  enhancement.  The listener would then be drawn even more convincingly into the performers’ special sound world.

1. Clear
2. Pathway
3. Dunun Song
4. Joy Chant
5. Bell-Painting
6. Elixir
7. Orientales
8. Metal Dew
9. Mother Drum
10. Mountain Breath
11. Creature Walk
12. Spirit Of Air
13. Spirit Of Sun
14. Sheep Dream
15. Talking Wind
16. Totem Dance
17. The Siren In The Well
18. River
19. On The Move
20. Winter Wish
21. Clear Recycle

 – John Henry

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