Originally recorded live in Tokyo, Japan in 1979 but locked away in the vaults until now, Sleeper is a stunning 2CD set from Keith Jarrett (piano, percussion), Jan Garbarek (tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, percussion), Palle Danielsson (double-bass), and Jon Christensen (drums, percussion), who at the time were known as 'Belonging' or Keith Jarrett's 'European Quartet". With only a few albums released during their short time together (1974-1979), Sleeper will be a revelation for fans who followed the band back in the day, and for those new to the magic this band created, this is a great introduction.
Sleeper, an original analog recording, newly mixed and mastered in 96 kHz/24 bit, sounds fantastic considering the source material is over 30 years old. Opening epic "Personal Mountains" is 21 minutes of jazz-fusion bliss, at times serene and tranquil, at others featuring some wildly complex passages littered with soaring solos from Jarrett and Garbarek. "Innocence" slows things down a bit, with Garbarek's sultry sax melodies leading the charge over textured piano from Jarrett, while "So Tender" is a more upbeat jazz piece with tricky rhythms from Danielsson & Christensen over which Jarrett lays down some dazzling runs, eventually giving way to a squonking solo from Garbarek. Powerful stuff.
"Oasis" clocks in at over 28 minutes, kicking off with some spirited percussion duels between Jarrett & Christensen while Garbarek's flute zips in and out of the mix before the piano and sax take over and create some wonderful melodies. Look for moments of free-improvision on this lengthy number, including a muscular double-bass solo courtesy of Danielsson. The more groove laden "Chant of the Soil" follows, a real funk/jazz piece with some solid rhythms, catchy piano vamps from Jarrett, and Garbarek's alluring sax melodies. At nearly 15 minutes long, this one is lengthy but you just don't want it to end. There's more swing and groove packed into this one song than most jazz acts conjure up in their entire careers.
The band takes things down a notch for the lounge jazz piece "Prism", featuring some emotional sax from Garbarek, and the upbeat "New Dance" closes out the set with blazing lines from both Jarrett and Garbarek amidst some furious rhythms. It's hard to imagine that this recording has remained unreleased until now, but thankfully the folks at ECM have unearthed this absolute gem of a live album for jazz & fusion lovers to enjoy for years to come. It's also a shame that this band fizzled out shortly after this recording, as you can clearly hear how well they played off each other, and there's a synergy present that you don't often come across in acts of this nature. Highly recommended!
1) Personal Mountains
3) So Tender
5) Chant of the Soil
7) New Dance