Born: March 4, 1947
Jan Garbarek established himself as one of Europe's leading jazz saxophonists and the creator of music in that advanced area of the avant-garde where jazz and classical concepts mix. The desire to become a musician exploded in him when, at age 14, he heard John Coltrane on the radio. He immediately bought a saxophone instruction manual and learned the fingering positions for the instrument, even before he had a saxophone. Many elements drew him to develop a concept of using ethnic music other than African American in his jazz. He was, for instance, drawn to study Indian music because he knew of Coltrane's interest in Ravi Shankar. In 1966, Garbarek had a chance to play with Don Cherry, himself a pioneer in using world folk traditions in his music. Meanwhile, Garbarek was drawn to the forefront innovators in jazz, such as Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, and Alfred Ayler. But the most formative influence was American composer and pianist George Russell; the two met at the 1965 Molde Festival and Russell invited the 18-year-old to join his band. Garbarek deeply studied Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization while playing on a series of Russell recordings. In 1968, Garbarek was named Musician of the Year by the Norwegian Jazz Federation. In 1969, German producer Manfred Eicher asked Garbarek to join the roster of his new record company, ECM. His first album was Afric Pepperbird, a free jazz recording. Garbarek began to add possibilities raised by new technology, such as the use of echo and other electronic sounds and effects. The 1972 album Triptykon was an inventively lyrical project with a sense of dissolved rhythm. In 1974, Garbarek began a fruitful collaboration with pianist Keith Jarrett, another major ECM artist. Through the 1980s, Eicher developed a concept of teaming artists of widely varying approaches and backgrounds in "production projects," resulting in unexpected and exciting syntheses of their styles. With this approach, he found that Garbarek was one of the artists who, if present, virtually catalyzed these mixes. Garbarek has therefore appeared on many recordings drawn from many steams of music, including classical, rock, and Brazilian pop. One of his most popular albums, reflecting this mix of musics, is Officium, with the Hilliard Ensemble. Garbarek has been an innovative composer for films, where his film music draws more on the classical repertory than jazz.