After 33 years the emergence of Sleeper is a seismic event the significance of which will be felt for years to come.
Listening to the 28-minute version of ‘Oasis’, the flute/percussion flavoured track on the second CD of the Keith Jarrett ‘European Quartet’ album – some 10 minutes longer than the rendition of the composition you’ll find on Personal Mountains – it’s hard to avoid thinking about Jarrett’s former employer Charles Lloyd.
Jan Garbarek has always had an unworldliness about him, just like Lloyd, a mysticism too, and there is a sense of this here that Garbarek is placeless, operating not in 1979 when the music was recorded and is now released for the first time, but in the ancient past.
The song feels as if it could have been performed in a cave, or on some lonely plain with just the four musicians present, but yet it’s in front of an audience in Tokyo.
Jarrett possibly contributes percussion effects on this track as well (it sounds as if there’s more than Christensen at work), but even if this is not the case his role here is different to say that on the wondrous ‘Innocence’ from the first disc.
‘Unlike the version of ‘Innocence’ on Personal Mountains it takes five minutes for the heartstopping theme from Garbarek to emerge after a so-honest-it-hurts bass build up from Danielsson’
Towards the latter part of ‘Oasis’, an informal but no less grand symphony of a piece, both Garbarek and Jarrett become more emotional on the song, as if some switch has been turned on, and it’s the level of intensity that makes the European Quartet so special not just here but made blindingly obvious with this release.
There is something quite naïve about the level of motivation on Sleeper which in artistic terms is almost like a surrender, and it’s easy for a listener to sense this sheer abandon.
In a year when remarkable new music has already been unearthed from the archives (the game changing early-Wes Montgomery Echoes of Indiana Avenue set from Resonance; and 301 the beautiful Sydney swan song by EST), Sleeper is still a milestone and adds hugely to what we know about the Belonging band.
Sleeper is released by ECM on 16 July