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Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble: Officium Novum

Norwegian sax great Jan Garbarek teamed up with The Hilliard Ensemble in 1994 and released their first album Officium . They followed it up five years later with Mneemsyme and although it took a few years, the enigmatic ensemble have just released their third CD on ECM Records entitled Officium Novum. Translated in English Officium means service and indeed anyone who appreciates choral hymns will regard this as essential in their music collection.

Besides Garbarek (soprano and tenor saxophones) the choral vocals are provided by David James (countertenor), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), Steven Harrold (tenor) and Gordon Jones (baritone). The compositions include two Garbarek originals, a few written by the Armenian priest/musicologist Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935) and various other contributors both old and new.

Anyone familiar with the ensemble's previous efforts will probably have an idea what is in store when listening to the new album. The music is very minimalistic with an ambient nature and Garbarek's moody sax work is able to transport the listener across centuries as this music has an otherworldliness quality that is hard to put a finger on. Garbarek's sax shimmers with absolute clarity as his melodic lines weave through the background choral voices with the utmost of ease making for an engaging listen even though the songs do not seem to vary that much over the course of the CD. I suppose that is a good thing as the songs flow gently from one to the next with no bumps in the road to derail the music's gentle course. Officium Novum has a spiritual quality as most of these songs have their origins deeply rooted in Armenian-style hymn music so there will definitely be an appeal to those who appreciate a religious tone in their music.

The album was recorded in the St. Gerold monastery in Austria and the recording quality is excellent. The pastoral nature of the recording is perfectly captured and Garbarek's vibrant and ethereal sax lines are a joy to behold.

Although this style of music will not be for everyone there is no denying the quality of Garbarek's work. He truly is an exceptional player. Released on ECM Records

Track Listing:
1. Ov zarmanali
2. Svjete tihij
3. Allting finns
4. Litany
5. Otche nash
6. Dostoino est
7. Surb, surb
8. Most Holy Mother of God
9. Tres morillas
10. Sirt im sasani
11. Hays hark nviranats ukhti
12. Alleluia. Nativitas
13. We are the stars
14. Nu ein Weniges noch

Added: November 22nd 2010
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Label Website
Hits: 1856
Language: english

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