Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti/Charlie Haden – Magico: Carta de Amor
(ECM 278 9004. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘A message in a bottle that has taken this long to reach the shore’ is guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti’s description of this two-CD live recording from Munich’s Amerika Haus featuring the trio known as ‘Magico’, completed by saxophonist Jan Garbarek and bassist Charlie Haden. ‘This long’ is actually thirty-one years, the concert having taken place in April 1981, two years after the trio’s Magico and Folk Songs studio albums.
Composing credits are democratically shared between the trio members, so extended versions of Garbarek’s deceptively simple folk-based tunes and a collectively improvised workout on his ‘Spor’ are judiciously balanced against Gismonti’s richly evocative, multi-hued compositions (the album is book-ended by two versions of his title-track) and Haden’s ‘La Pasionaria’ (from the Liberation Music Orchestra book) and (its recorded debut) ‘All That is Beautiful’.
What is immediately striking (especially given the recent comparisons of Garbarek with Kenny G) is the sheer intensity of the saxophonist’s attack, both on soprano and tenor, but the musical rapport between Gismonti (whether playing mesmerising, shimmering guitar or idiosyncratic piano) and the consistently melodic, supremely sensitive Haden is the core of the band’s appeal.
Whether they’re softly propelling Garbarek’s plangent cry or weaving hypnotic duo improvisations, they’re at the heart of what producer Manfred Eicher accurately describes as: ‘a great instance of the art of listening, of interaction, and suspense’. Given that another great highlight of 2012 was provided by Keith Jarrett’s aptly named Sleeper, a bottled message from his Belonging band recorded in 1979, what further wonders ECM might have in its live-recordings vault provide matter for much enjoyable speculation.