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In Praise Of Dreams

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 21, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

IN PRAISE OF DREAMS

Amazon.com

Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek cut his teeth emulating John Coltrane and blowing gales through the muscular compositions of George Russell and open improvisations of Keith Jarrett. But since the mid 1980s, the saxophonist has been making an increasingly rarefied and composed music full of chords suspended in space, harmonies echoing in gothic recesses, and always, wrenching saxophone melodies. In Praise of Dreams is his latest foray into a music that reaches for the mystical. With just Garbarek, some keyboard pads, light percussion from Manu Katché and haunting viola by Kim Kashkashian, In Praise of Dreams is instrumentally sparse, yet deep in emotion and atmosphere. Based mostly on rhythm loops, there's a hypnotic trance quality to Garbarek's compositions, but also a tinge of nostalgia with Kashkashian's wistful violin. You could be in a mediaeval stave church in Norway or a Parisian café circa 1890. Atop it all are Garbarek's saxophones. He builds many of his improvisations off Kashkashian's viola, echoing her melody lines, then spiraling off with his keening soprano saxophone hailing lamentations like a rainstorm and his tenor calling out in a torrent of emotion barely leashed. This isn't a jazz album in the traditional sense, but a tone poem of memory and dreams. --John Diliberto
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 21, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM
  • ASIN: B0002IVZ2W
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,663 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jan P. Dennis on September 23, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Possessed of perhaps the most distinctive and instantly recognizable sound of any living saxophonist (pace Pharoah Sanders), Jan Garbarek has not always found the proper context to bring forth the extent of its glories. One thinks (recently) of the overlong Rites and the undistinguished Twelve Moons.

I've always been wooed by Garbarek's sax conception, as well as his sound. It's very what I call "elegiac," or, one might say, "melancholy," and for me it constitutes one of the most important jazz moves--the conjuring of the splendid sorrow of human existence. But if it's not properly presented, it can all too easily lapse into mere sentimentality.

Well, he's fully on his game here. This is his best work, I believe, since his great Legend of the Seven Dreams, and right up there with Witchi Tai To, his musical salute to the late, lamented Jim Pepper, my personal favorite of his. If there is nothing quite as compelling as the opening track of Legend, "He Comes From the North," a reworked traditional Lapp tune, there's at least as much Nordic mystery, arcane beauty, and shear sonic gloriousness--plus more continuity--happening on this altogether satisfying disc.

In the sixteen years since Legend, Garbarek has mastered the role of Rainer Bruninghaus on keys, providing similarly conceived although even subtler keyboard stylings. He's also recruited the marvelous Kim Kashkashian on viola, who weaves stunningly rich and sonorous lines, now doubled, now contrapuntal, with Garbarek's soprano and tenor saxes. Long-time associate Manu Katche's also here on drums, easing into the mysterioso vibe with one of his more nuanced performances.
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I had not intended to join in the flock of reviews, but I really want to make sure that no potential listener is put off by the few negative remarks. This is not "smooth jazz" or MOR classical/world beat. "De gustibus non disputandum", tastes are unarguable perhaps, but dispute I nonetheless must. This is my single "desert island" CD, and I don't say that lightly. The interplay between Kashkashian on viola and Garbarek on sax brings together two great currents of music, the "classical" compositional with improvisational jazz. The dialogue between the viola and the tenor sax are amazing in the closeness of their ... their ... is it tone? Texture? Timbre? I'm not fluent in the terms of musical description, but certainly I listen, and say to myself, "Here comes the sax!" only to realize a moment later that it is Kashkashian's viola.

The sound is often mournful, but not sad; it's uplifting. It is a clear sound, although Garbarek's usual coldness is tempered by the viola. The sax-viola duets are augmented by gentle keyboard work as well as a great performance by the drummer, Manu Katche, who has to be mentioned. He builds patterns that go a long way to providing a framework for the music.

Garbarek has had other opportunities to improvise over classical compositional structures - most famously, his lovely sessions with the Hilliard Ensemble, but he also joined on the CD "Monodia", where Tigran Mansurian composed expressly for Kashkashian and him. But here, on "In Praise of Dreams", Garbarek is both composer/arranger and improviser, and this CD gives him the opportunity to emphasize his strengths in composition. His strengths here are remarkable.
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Format: Audio CD
I'd give this album four and a half stars if I could.

I'm a relatively young Garbarek fan and my old favourites of his are albums like "Took up the runes" and "Twelve Moons". This album is much more evenly downtempo and the viola lines are always conventionally melodic, which means that this album probably has the potential to appeal to a much wider audience than much of his other recent work.

Garbarek works his usual sax improvisations over the viola lines. The album has a folk music-like character, but freer in the form than traditional folk, which is often found in Garbareks work. However, I miss the variation of the greater inventiveness and quirkyness on some of his other recent works, and the dancing, playful beats that he otherwise uses. Nevertheless, this album is very pleasing, and my initial reaction that this music lacked some of the depth which I appreciate in Garbareks work seems to be unfounded, since I appreciate the album more and more every time I play it.

I recommend this especially to anyone who is curious about Garbareks music, but has not yet bought any of his works. And obviously also to old fans.
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Format: Audio CD
I have to give this 5 stars even though I find myself agreeing with some of the judgments made by the negative reviewers on this page, because the appeal of this album is so instantaneous and goes so directly to the heart.

Yes, this is in the mould of "Visible World" and "Rites," both of which are hugely enjoyable albums, but also unashamedly commercial. It is a Garbarek whose icy fires have dwindled somewhat and who seems to be enjoying a comfortable middle age by the hearth, rather than the shattered, King Lear-like wilderness which some other jazz musicians have groped through, and which one might have predicted would be Garbarek's eventual destination, extrapolating from the haunted, haunting artist of the 80's.

But his playing is as magisterial as ever, and the wonderful Kim Kashkashian tugs at the heartstrings with each soaring note, helping greatly to lift this album higher. If this is New Age schlock, it is at the very top of the genre.

Garbarek's discography is so vast, and his qualities as a musician so profound, that he can never be casually dismissed. The reviewers who seem not to know his work have wonderful discoveries to make.

The fact is that I cannot imagine any general listener who will not love this album. And as a long-time Garbarek fan who tries to buy everything made by this great artist, I feel that there is room in his oeuvre for a few comfortably commercial albums. This is one of the best of those, his best in years, and highly recommended. If you feel it may be beneath you intellectually, take a listen to the samples before you buy (try tracks 5 and 6 for a good idea of the flavour of this album).
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