This recording is ESSENTIAL for any Keith Jarrett or Jan Garbarek fan. IMHO this is one of Jarrett's top-ten recordings within a huge catalogue and, in a year's time I anticipate that it might even consolidate within my personal top-five - it's that good.
Indeed, this is essential for any lover of (modern) jazz.
If, like me, you wondered over the decades how the story-telling beauty of the definitive 'Belonging' and 'My song' (studio) albums might have translated when performed 'live', then this gets close - very close indeed. I mention this as, whilst the 'live' 'Nude Ants' recording together with 'Personal Mountains' remain wonderful and important, there is a tendency sometimes for the music to meander and lose focus somehow, or even to try a bit too hard, particularly during passages of 'Nude Ants'. With 'Sleeper', however, this fabulous quartet are in the so-called, 'zone' throughout this concert and there is an sheer abundance of musical creativity that leaves one awe-inspired.
Characteristic of ECM, this excellent 'live' recording (and gorgeous, sonorous piano) captures the musicians as they stretch-out. Garbarek is unleashed and seems at-ease and confident in this setting: his tone on tenor to 'die for', complete with long probing, driving lines, and characteristic icy-toned over-blowings fueled by Jarrett's constantly inventive playing and accompaniment - not forgetting the dazzling support from the excellent Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen. Garbarek's extraordinary, unmistakable tenor playing is characteristically organised, yet open to further possibilities within the spaces the compositions allow and, at times, despite Garbarek's unique voice and tone, I wondered if I was listening instead to Wayne Shorter at his best given Garbarek's inventiveness and shadings of light and dark.
Importantly, it is Keith Jarrett who is also on top-form: an effervescent form of musical ADHD: surging, busy, lyrical, mercurial, romantic and deliciously delicate at times; classical, and ever-ransacking the history of jazz piano with his torrent of musical ideas: a cascade of inventiveness that would equal Michael Phelps' achievements of Olympic Gold medals if 'jazz' were an Olympic event! There's also something deeply joyous to their playing avoiding some of the darker, melancholic landscapes that some of Jarrett's later recordings often inhabit.
'Sleeper' is rather like and echoes his legendary 'Koln Concert' in a quartet form given its sheer energy and exhuberance and grips one's attention from the start. There's a fabulous version of Jarrett's bouyant 'So tender', a composition that famously opens his excellent Trio recording, 'Standards Vol 2', and this time, Garbarek's solo adds much fire to this pretty piece following the gentle prelude, and Jarrett's Evanesque chords reminds the listener of his relationship to the heritage of the late, great Bill Evans, (and his own solo on (side 2) of his brilliant 'The Survivors' Suite'). And then there's the 'aftermath' as this gorgeous piece concludes: hypnotic; moving, and wonderfully devoid of self-consciousness. An epilogue of pure beauty and definitive Keith Jarrett!
The Best Jazz cd release of 2012. Period. Thank you ECM!