Review: Jan Garbarek at LJF 2012

Michael Tucker says that Jan Garbarek can get deep down and bluesy but finds Trilok Gurtu's low-down too loud for comfort and misses the magical improvisatory powers of bassist Eberhard Weber

Jan GarbarekWhether with the Hilliard Ensemble or his own group, Jan Garbarek has long drawn a large and loyal audience in Britain. His appearance at the LJF – the start of a European tour – proved no exception. Opening with a beautifully understated, meditative new piece for tenor, as yet untitled, the Norwegian leader and colleagues Rainer Brüninghaus (piano, keyboards), Yuri Daniel (electric bass) and Trilok Gurtu (drums, percussion) gave a typically folk-rinsed two-hour performance to a packed Royal Festival Hall.

The concert was advertised as "The Jan Garbarek Group with Trilok Gurtu" which was perhaps why the sound engineers felt it necessary to mix Gurtu's bass register work at a level redolent of stadium rock music, the sledgehammer effect doubled on occasion by some sustained root figures from Daniel's mostly functional, rhythmically popping electric bass. Fortunately, there were plenty of quietly lyrical moments to counter such assaults, including a delightful duet between Brüninghaus and Gurtu. Brüninghaus's customary solo feature dug unexpectedly deep into jazz history and the encore – Mission: To Be Where I Am – showed how Garbarek can get deep down, bluesy and gospel-rinsed when he so chooses.

Garbarek is the last person who needs to be told that long-time fans continue sorely to miss the magical improvisatory powers of his long-time playing companion, Eberhard Weber, who played such a crucial role in the band over so many years: but they do, and forever will.

Photo: Guri Dahl

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