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Listeners who discovered Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek through Officium
, his million-selling 1994 collaboration with the Hilliard Ensemble, aren't likely to be disappointed in this double disc. They might, however, be in for a surprise. Ambitiously traversing territory from ambient techno to large-scale choral works to Garbarek's more familiar brand of melodic jazz, Rites
largely features Garbarek accompanied by electronic effects and synthesizers. But while there are plenty of appealing genre-hopping moments--like disc two's opener, "It's High Time," where a traditional Scandinavian folk melody floats over a shuffling techno beat--the real successes on Rites come on the more acoustic-oriented tunes. The gorgeously ethereal "Her Wild Ways" features Garbarek backed by piano, bass, and drums, and Don Cherry's "Malinye" is a moving tribute to the late trumpeter that features the saxophonist accompanied only by percussion and accordion. There's also an intriguing two-song suite that's probably the set's highlight: "We Are the Stars", Garbarek's composition for himself and a Norwegian boys choir, and "The Moon Over Mtatsminda", composed and performed by Jansug Kakhidze, the Georgian conductor of the Tbisili Symphony Orchestra. The latter piece doesn't even feature Garbarek but blends seamlessly with the rest of the album because of its intense spirituality and beauty. --Ezra Gale