The distinguished Norwegian tenor saxophonist Jan Garbarek has been describes by George Russell as 'just about the most uniquely talented jazz musician Europe has produced since Django Reinhardt'. Garbarek is undoubtedly one of the most original individualists on saxophone to have emerged since the '70s.
Born in Mysen, Norway, 1947, Garbarek taught himself to play saxophone at age 14, inspired by hearing John Coltrane's Countdown on the radio. A year later, he was fronting the leading quartet in the non - traditional section of the '62 Norwegian Amateur Jazz Championship. In 1965 a significant encounter with George Russell at the Molde Jazz Festival resulted in Garbarek's fascination with Russell's 'Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization', with Garbarek becoming an important soloist in the composer's works.
Garbarek has subsequently presented a wide body of his own work from acoustic and electric trios, quartets, through duos with piano, classical guitar, wind harp, brass sextet and pipe organ to solos and trios with string orchestras. In the late '70s, he supplied a much-acclaimed series of solo improvisations for Edith Rogers's production of Ibsen's brand at Oslo's National Theater. He has also written music for her production of Peer Gynt at Sweden's Malmo State Theater, been commissioned by Amsterdam's Plain Musicke Ensemble, and composed for music choir and jazz quartet. The '84 It's OK To Listen To The Gray Voice is Garbarek's interpretation of the works of poet Tomas Transtromer.
Among the first artists to be recorded by Manfred Eicher for ECM, Garbarek's poignant saxophone can be heard on more than 30 albums for the label, either as a leader or in an unprecedented variety of settings. His individualistic contributions to Keith Jarrett's projects (notably Luminessence, Arbour Zena and the '74 small group's go - for - bust Belonging) helped bring Garbarek's plaintive, stark, almost alto - sounding tenor to a wider audience. An important factor in his individual sound is his love for the Nordic folk tradition, which manifests itself with his every breath (just listen to his contributions to the classic, beautiful Folk Songs album in the compelling company of bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist - pianist Egberto Gismonti).
Garbarek's highly distinctive tone - a desolate, stinging sound, floating in simplicity and haunting clarity - has proclaimed him as one of the most important saxophone stylists in contemporary jazz.