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Jan Garbarek

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Mysen, Oslo, Norway

Jan Garbarek (born March 4, 1947 in Mysen, Norway) a Norwegian tenor and soprano saxophonist, active in the , classical, and world music genres. Garbarek was the only child of former Polish prisoner of war, and a Norwegian farmer’s daughter. Garbarek grew up in Oslo. At 21, he married Vigdis. Their daughter Anja Garbarek is also a musician.

Garbarek’s sound is one of the hallmarks of the ECM record label, which has released virtually all of his recordings. His style incorporates a sharp-edged tone, long, keening, sustained notes strongly reminiscent of Islamic prayer calls, and generous use of silence. He began his recording career in the late 1960s, notably featuring on recordings by the American jazz composer George Russell (such as Othello Ballet Suite and Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature). If he had initially appeared as a devotee of Albert Ayler and Peter Brötzmann, by 1973 he had turned his back on the harsh dissonances of , retaining only his tone from his previous approach.

As a composer, Garbarek tends to draw heavily from Scandinavian folk melodies, a legacy of his Ayler influence. He is also a pioneer of ambient jazz composition, most notably on his 1976 album Dis. This textural approach, which rejects traditional notions of thematic improvisation (best exemplified by Sonny Rollins) in favor of a style described by critics Richard Cook and Brian Morton as “sculptural in its impact”, has been critically divisive.

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