DW Jazz Concerts: The Jan Garbarek Group

23 Jan

"We make good music sound better — at least we try," says the caption on the Norwegian jazzsaxophonist's website. Garbarek's description of his music is arguably very humble, considering the beautiful sounds he and his group of musicians have produced in the last decades.


This episode features a live recording of a concert by the Jan Garbarek Group at the 2021 Jazzfest in Bonn. The musicians include Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu, German jazz pianist Rainer Brüninghaus and Brazilian bassist Yuri Daniel.

Garbarek was born in 1947 to a Polish father and a Norwegian mother. Having trained as a classical musician, he is known for mixing influences and today also dabbles in world music and draws from Scandinavian folk music. His famous albums include "Afric Pepperbird" (1971), "Eventyr" (1981) and "Officium" (1994).

He has also recorded music with various musicians from South Asia, including "Song for Everyone" (1985) with Indian violinist L. Shankar and "Ragas and Sagas" (1992) with Pakistani vocalist Ustad Bade Fateh Ali Khan.

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What is jazz?

In addition to Garbarek, the program features several other big names in jazz: Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu, for example. Gurtu, the son of legendary Indian classical vocalist Shobha Gurtu, combines his Indian roots with Western influences, creating a different kind of music.

So does he play jazz? Gurtu's answer only raises more questions. Jazz musician and drummer Trilok Gurtu performing on the drums onstage at a concert. "What is jazz? It's just a name. And everybody is giving so much importance to jazz. We don't play jazz here. With Jan I don't … nobody intends to play jazz. And nobody has the slimmest idea, the slightest idea, what is jazz," he told DW on the sidelines of the concert.

Gurtu draws heavily on the Indian music tradition in explaining his answer. "It's become a religion to call everything jazz. What is jazz? Improvised music. Do you know how improvised Indian music is? Ninety percent of Indian music is improvised, and people don't know that. African music. If there was no Africa, and if there was no Bach, there wouldn't be jazz at all."

International music

The Garbarek Group's concert proves that jazz is a confluence of various styles of music. Group member and legendary German pianist Rainer Brüninghaus' music is a prime example. Considered one of the greatest achievements of the German jazz scene, Brüninghaus' music "stands for the fusion of jazz, classical music, rock-rhythms, new music and avant-garde," according to his website.

Brüninghaus started playing at a young age, founding a jazz-rock group in the 1970s and then moving on to what his website describes as the "classically influenced emancipation of European jazz." He is also a composer, writing for piano, symphony and brass orchestras.

Brazilian bassist Yuri Daniel also features in this program. Born in 1966 in Recife, in northeastern Brazil, Daniel made a name for himself in Portugal's jazz scene, where he worked with jazz musicians like singers Maria Joao, Dulce Pontes and Amelia Muge. He joined the Jan Garbarek group in 2007, after the death of the band's former bassist, Eberhard Weber.

What you'll be listening to

Finally, here's a quick overview of what's going to be featured in this program that was recorded at the 2021 Jazzfest in Bonn. We'll be listening to two pieces by the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek that feature the Indian drummer Trilok Gurtu. They're called "Molde Canticle," parts 1 and 2. "Buena Hora, Buenos Vintos" is yet another soft number featuring the piano and the saxophone.

The first part of "Molde Canticle" has incidentally also been sung by the Norwegian soprano Sissel Kyrkjebo, who sang the Olympic anthem when her country hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994. Other tracks from the Jazzfest concert include "Medieval" and "Tao," by Yuri Daniel. "Gula Gula" is followed by "A's Ballad" and "Red Dust." The musicians wrapped up the concert with "Recife," a piece named after Daniel's city of birth in Brazil, and "Had to Cry Today," a composition by English musicians Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton.

That's it for this special second edition of DW Jazz Concert hosted by Manasi Gopalakrishnan, produced by Thomas Schmidt and Christian Stäter, and with editorial support from Anastassia Boutsko. DW and Jazzfest Bonn own all rights to the music recorded at this concert in Bonn, 2021.


Author Manasi Gopalakrishnan

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