Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek’s icy tone and liberal use of space and long tones has long been perfect for the ECM sound and, as a result, he is on many recordings for that label, both as a leader and as a sideman.
He had won a competition for amateur jazz players back in 1962, leading to his first gigs. Garbarek worked steadily in Norway throughout the remainder of the ’60s, usually as a leader but also for four years with George Russell (who was in Scandinavia for a long stretch). Garbarek began recording for ECM in the early ’70s and, although he had opportunities to play with Chick Corea and Don Cherry, his association with Keith Jarrett’s European quartet in the mid-’70s made him famous, resulting in the classic recordings My Song and Belonging. In the ’80s, Garbarek’s groups included bassist Eberhard Weber and at various times, guitarists Bill Frisell and David Torn.
Garbarek, whose sound has remained virtually unchanged since the ’70s, collaborated with the Hilliard Ensemble in 1993 (a vocal quartet singing Renaissance music) and the result was a surprisingly popular recording. Visible World followed in 1995, and four years later he resurfaced with Rites. In April of 1999, Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble returned with Mnemosyne. He issued In Praise of Dreams in 2004, and finally released his first live album as a leader, Dresden, in 2009.