The 1970s and 1980s saw jazz become a different sort of music. It continued to draw from its American roots, but truly original voices from Europe became as important as their US counterparts. One of the most important markers of change was a group of Norwegian players who became some of the core performers on Manfred Eicher’s ECM label. The musicians – Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Arild Andersen and Jon Christensen – first came together as the Esoteric Circleon this Flying Dutchman album produced by veteran jazz composer George Russell.
Russell, who had moved to Scandinaviain the mid-60s, was the pioneer of the Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization, a modal scale which proved highly influential on Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy. He recorded several records of his own, which brought him into contact with the players that made up the Esoteric Circle. Saxophonist Garbarek would go on to become one of the most recognised players in jazz. His style was informed not just by the greats such as Coltrane but also by the traditional folk music of his homeland. He was joined by guitarist Rypdal, who had recently turned to jazz after a career in the Vanguards, one his country’s leading rock groups. Together the pair created a sound unlike anything heard before. In drummer Christensen and bassist Andersen they had the perfect foils, players who added to the music and drove it along.
This album is far from the finished article; Rypdal and Garbarek are still feeling the way towards their ultimate sound. That said, more ideas fizz through its 44 minutes than many less-inventive players provided in their entire careers. An exciting record, it pointed the way for much of what happened in European jazz over the following decade.
By Dean Rudland