Jan Garbarek Quartet

Afric Pepperbird

ECM • 1970

Those who have only followed Jan Garbarek’s development since his middle phase, i.e. since his greatest success »Officium« with the Hilliard Ensemble in 1994, will be surprised by »Afric Pepperbird«. It is the first album the saxophonist has released on ECM, and in 1971 it marked a lifelong association with the label for him and his fellow musicians, guitarist Terje Rypdal, bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen. »Afric Pepperbird«, now reissued in the audiophile »Luminessence Series«, is unlike much of what the Norwegian released in the decades that followed. 

The album’s appeal lies in the stylistic diversity that unites the Jan Garbarek Quartet in a strangely logical way. The lyrical atonality of European improvised music stands next to free outbursts on the tenor saxophone that evoke memories of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders. But there are also hints of the Nordic sonic aesthetic with which the ECM label is generally associated. Whether the music on the album is loud, quiet, introspective or expressive—the frenetic overblowing of the aptly titled »Blow Away Zone«, the mysterious lyricism of the title track—the communication between the four musicians is absolutely extraordinary.