The keyboardist, composer and arranger Milcho Leviev has died at the age of 81. He appeared on Billy Cobham, Gerald Wilson, Don Ellis and Roy Haynes records and as a leader recorded for a number of labels his work spanning several decades, notable titles including The Oracle with Dave Holland.
ECM celebrating its fiftieth anniversary soon has often delighted in a riddle, in this case when Manfred Eicher first paired a jazz saxophonist, the greatest European jazz musician since Django Reinhardt no less, with a celebrated early music vocal group and somehow made the collision of styles match and fuse.
Officium was a big seller and beyond sales it somehow had a numinous quality that its subsequent albums possessed to a certain extent but could not dream of repeating that once in a lifetime alchemy. Hearing Garbarek in St Paul’s cathedral some years ago, indeed hearing him in any cathedral, he has played in quite a few, in this context of a Swiss church makes sense but in certain ways and this applies to his jazz output, Garbarek journeys beyond the religious and spiritual deeply into the realms of the humane. Its haunting qualities invade and that is part of the unique majesty of the sound secular or not because Garbarek as the main protagonist (the Hilliards are largely his backing singers) has a profound sound and as listeners you could say we forget that he is playing the saxophone – because essentially he is rendering his lifetime song: a factor easily discernible on his famed collaborations in the “Belonging” band with Keith Jarrett, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen.
Recorded in 2014 the album says hello goodbye to a collaboration that lasted half of the length of ECM itself and is book ended by Komitas and the title track, an anonymous 16th century Scottish song. Skip the ordering if you like and dive into the elegiac ‘Allting finns’ followed by ‘We Are the Stars’ for the Garbarek compositions. Remember Me, My Dear also includes the beautiful ‘Most Holy Mother of God’ by the great Estonian composer Arvo Pärt among other material and where would we be without a 12th century piece by Hildegard von Bingen? Bereft possibly – incidentally a feeling thankfully entirely absent among these very uplifting sounds. SG • Jan Garbarek plays the Brewin Dolphin Cambridge International Jazz Festival next month.