Although this album was recorded in 1973 by four young, then relatively unknown, Nordic jazz musicians, I didn't get to hear it until 1977 when a student I met at a Weather Report concert introduced me to the LP. It blew my mind, and I have been steadily accumulating Jan Garbarek albums ever since.
For me, this is one of the least Nordic of my Garbarek albums. He wrote none of the tracks himself -- highly uncharacteristic of his output over the past 20 years -- and indeed most were written by American jazz composers, such as Cherry and Bley (C.). Only one track was written by a band member: Palle Danielsson's 'Kukka', a title which sounds like a piece of furniture you can buy from IKEA.
As an LP, this was a highly unbalanced selection. Side Two was simply magnificent, so Side One hardly got played at all, even though it contained at least two decent tracks. Hopefully with CD, tracks 1-3 should get a fairer hearing.
But tracks 4 and 5 are gorgeous. For me, this is the definitive version of 'Witchi-Tai-To' -- although Garbarek commemorated it by re-recording it for the ECM anniversary special CD, 'Twelve Moons'. It's probably Stenson's delicate piano-playing that makes it for me. And then comes the sublime 'Desireless', in which Garbarek alternates between harsh and beautiful tones on the intro, and then we get a very solid groove delivered by the bass, quite unlike anything else that I own of Garbarek's. After a wonderfully long piece of interplay between bass, piano and drums, Garabarek re-enters and, to my mind, messes it up. It's unusual for me to rate a piece so highly when I dislike a passage within it, but I guess it shows how strong most of it is.
Fans who only found Garabarek in the 1990s will be very pleased by this album of twenty years earlier. The standard of musicianship is just as high, and the sound is just ... well, different. As you might expect of an older recording, there is some tape hiss on the quieter passages.