JAN GARBAREK — Places (review)

JAN GARBAREK — Places album cover Album · 1978 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Steve Wyzard
THE BEST ECM SAX WITH ORGAN ALBUM

For many years, this album was not available on CD, and was very hard to find. Now that it has been re-issued, listeners and collectors can finally hear this very successful pairing of the saxophones of Jan Garbarek with the organ of John Taylor. This album was recorded in December 1977, mere weeks after the very prolific Garbarek played on Keith Jarrett's My Song. He also appears on Gary Peacock's December Poems and Bill Connors' Of Mist and Melting, both of which were recorded at the same time. That's four full-length albums in less than three months, and Places is definitely the best of the four.

There is no double bass on Places, but the album doesn't suffer for it. Three of the four lengthy compositions open with Taylor's ethereal organ. "Reflections" is a two-part epic: "part one" features Garbarek's slow-building phrases, Bill Connors' softly picked acoustic guitar, and Jack DeJohnette's mystical cymbals. Suddenly the tempo picks up for "part two". Taylor contributes background colors over Garbarek's best blaring tone while Connors takes a solo over DeJohnette's louder, more vibrant drums. "Entering" is the shortest and most accessible track. Garbarek plays plaintively, nostalgically over Connors' acoustic guitar. DeJohnette enters halfway through, and the song closes peacefully with a short coda. In spite of brilliant performances, "Going Places" is just a little unfocussed, with a few too many mood changes. After a busy DeJohnette opening (this is his best playing on the album) and much shrill Garbarek soloing, this track moves into much slower, more atmospheric territory. There's also a great Connors solo and a drum-and-organ duet before Taylor switches to percussive piano for the only time on this album. "Passing" has Connors introducing the melody before Garbarek joins in over Taylor's organ cadences. This more subdued, almost bluesy track closes the album with Garbarek's best deep guttural groans and DeJohnette playing military drum patterns.

So where does Places fit within the Jan Garbarek catalog? It's not an earth-shaking, all-time classic like Witchi-Tai-To, or an openly experimental album like Dis or All Those Born With Wings. It's not as accessible as Photo with... or It's Okay to Listen to the Gray Voice, or as introspective as Paths, Prints. There's a similar feel on Places to some of Terje Rypdal's work from the same time period without ever digressing into the early-1970s avant-garde sound. And it's much better than Dansere, Eventyr, or Wayfarer. All this adds up to...highly recommended!

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