Album Title: Dresden
Performer: Jan Garbarek Group
Label: ECM 2100/01 270 9572
Running time: 57'51" | 64'36"
Recorded: October 20, 2007 live at the Alter Schlachthof, Dresden

Augmenting trusty collaborators Rainer Brüninghaus on piano or keyboards and ace drummer Manu Katché with bassist Yuri Daniel for a quartet formation, sax man Jan Garbarek's latest outing is a generous 2-hour twofer that was cut live two years ago at a concert in Dresden. It kicks off with an energetic soprano rendition of L. Shankar's "Paper Nut" and is followed by the atmospherically soaked, downward chromatic "The Tall Tear Trees". Its long arc builds to a suitably soaring climax before it collapses into some moody drum work that segues smoothly into the bluish-tinged "Heitor".

While Dresden is prime Garbarek material, the stage setting scales up the scope of more intimate previous productions. The tunes get more expansive, Katché's drum work more massive. Out-times for interludes spotlighting a particular performer lengthen and veer farther and deeper off-course before rethreading with the lead motif or melody of a number. Things are musically more adventurous. Because of it, the vibe at times is more abstract or exploratory than some of Garbarek's famously elegiac meditations on Visible World or In Praise of Dreams for example.

But Jan Garbarek also includes flat-out crowd pleasers like "Rondo Amoroso" co-penned with Harald Sæverud. It's one of his trademark minimalist dreamy affairs which, for the occasion, duly gets a mild detour treatment into freer improvisation. It is followed by the Yuri Daniel showcase "Tao" of roaming solo bass which eventually dances atop a Brüninghaus keyboard groove. The first half closes out with a 13-minute tribute to Milton Nascimento's "Milagre Dos Peixes". It dovetails sunny statements with ambiguously chromatic harmonic progressions to once again span the entire gamut of emotional weather.

The post intermission half opens with "There were swallows", a tender ballad with tendril-like melodic turns that showcase Garbarek's enviable compositional chops. The beefy bridge has Brüninghaus lean deeply into potent piano chords which he gets to revisit pared down and tweaked with longing in the dreamy extro. That leads sneakily into "The Reluctant Saxophonists" whose opening motif echoes the "Swallows" before turning ebullient. When the opening bars of "Once I Dreamt A Tree Upside Down" break forth, the audience responds with applauding recognition to be quickly whisked away into a hip-swaying dancy number. Then Manu Katché gets occasion to "Grooving Out!", a broad-shouldered thunder-god workout over 3:30 minutes and across his full drum set which suddenly becomes the lead-in for "Nu Bein". Here Katché is greeted by Jan Garbarek's selje flute that intones a shepherd's ditty over a brisk tempo and gets fancy with flutter-tongue staccato embellishments before the tune takes off like a freight train under Brüninghaus' explosive drive. The closer is called "Voy Cantando"—I keep singing—which is exactly what an artist of Garbarek's stature should be doing. And Dresden shows how it's done stepping out of the chorus line.