JazzTimes 10: Landmark ECM Albums

In honor of the label’s 50th anniversary, a celebration of 10 crucial releases

5. Jan Garbarek Group: It’s OK to Listen to the Gray Voice (1984)
Like Terje Rypdal (see #3), tenor and soprano saxophonist Garbarek (another Norwegian) is an emblematic voice of ECM’s Eurojazz. His quartet on the intriguingly titled It’s OK to Listen to the Gray Voice uses another such voice in German bassist Eberhard Weber. The remaining two players are Americans who are also prolific members of the ECM stable: drummer Michael DiPasqua and guitarist David Torn. The latter stands alongside Garbarek as the key member of this band. As much as the saxophonist does to channel European atmospherics with his long, clear tones, Torn might do even more with his reverb-dripping, often snarling electric guitar lines on the rugged “The Crossing Place” and the celebratory “Mission: To Be Where I Am.” That said, there is nothing more haunted and affecting on the record than the sound of Garbarek’s unaccompanied, double-tracked, and intertwined soprano saxes on the closing “I’m the Knife Thrower’s Partner.”

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Originally Published

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.