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KEITH JARRETT: SLEEPER – TOKYO, APRIL 16, 1979 / ECM2290/91          player
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ECM is particularly pleased to present this two-disc set by one of the most outstanding groups of its era, the group often referred to as ‘Belonging’ or Keith Jarrett’s ‘European Quartet’, heard here in a previously unreleased concert recording from 1979. After more than three decades in the archive, this “sleeper” now awakes, sounding thoroughly alive and of the moment.

“Sleeper” is a significant addition to the group’s small discography, until now comprised of the albums “Belonging” (1974), “My Song” (recorded 1977, released 1978), “Nude Ants” (recorded 1979), and “Personal Mountains” (1979, released 1989). The pieces performed by the quartet on April 16, 1979, at Tokyo’s Nakano Sun Plaza were Jarrett compositions – “Personal Mountains”, “Innocence”, “So Tender”, “Oasis”, “Chant of the Soil”, “Prism” and ”New Dance” – all written for this ensemble (in later years, “Prism” and “So Tender” would be reinterpreted by the “Standards” trio), all delivered with enormous verve. This was a group that could play very freely, and joyously, inside the melodic and rhythmic structures set up or implied by Keith Jarrett’s writing, with an extraordinary and unforced sense of flow. As Jarrett said at the time: “I myself, as a so-called leader, wish very, very often to blend with the other three musicians and that situation [the Belonging band] allows that, because no one is fighting with anyone else. Everyone is just trying to make the thing transparent and clear and feeling good.”

Throughout “Sleeper” exceptional improvisational exchanges, dynamic episodes of surging energy, and lyrical passages of wild beauty abound. The interplay between Jarrett and Garbarek is uncanny, and the Danielsson/Christensen rhythm team swings wildly and delightfully. Jan Garbarek wrote about the Belonging experience in the liner notes to his Selected Recordings collection a few years ago: “It was a crucial time for me as a young and relatively inexperienced musician to work closely with someone so musically advanced as Keith, and I feel I benefited tremendously from it. His touch, his chord movements, the always present rhythm, the surprising melodic turns, the ability to make the piano sing in such a unique way, complexity and simplicity, abstraction and earthiness hand in hand… I was more or less in awe the whole time, not always wanting to join in with what was going on between Keith, Palle and Jon, I just enjoyed listening to them so much! The one thing that stands out in my memory, though, was the way we would play melodies in unison, in fact I felt very much a sense of unison with the way Keith made music as a whole, as if belonging…”

The Belonging quartet came together initially for the album of the same name, and the musical compatibility of its members was instantly striking. Jarrett had been well aware of these musicians since the late 1960s, had played with Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen in Norway, and his admiration for Jan Garbarek’s saxophone approach had already led him to write the string music of “Luminessence” for Garbarek to play over.

In the five years between the first album and the end of the story Belonging played infrequently enough for Jarrett to tell one journalist that it was less an ensemble than a ‘special event’. The pianist had other pressing demands on his time, then, including tours with a demanding American quartet in the final phase of its existence, and a burgeoning concert life as a popular solo improviser. In between, there was Belonging. Jarrett wrote music for the strengths of the individual players and for the sound they created as a unit, and. the classic “My Song” album was recorded in 1977 after a series of nine concerts with the ECM touring festival, “Evenings of Improvised Music.”

In 1979 came the tour of Japan from which “Personal Mountains” and now “Sleeper” were drawn and, the following month, the New York concerts at the Village Vanguard that generated the “Nude Ants” album. And then the story was finished. As Ian Carr was to observe in his Jarrett biography, “The influence of this quartet is out of all proportion to its brief life. Musicians on all instruments have been influenced and inspired by Keith Jarrett’s work in general, but also by this quartet in particular. The European Quartet ceased to exist when it was at the height of its creativity.” “Sleeper” confirms that this was indeed the case.


Das neue Album von Keith Jarretts ‘European Quartet’ ist ein 33 Jahre alter Konzertmitschnitt – und dennoch vielleicht die Jazz-Aufnahme des Jahres. Es ist zur Zeit einfach keine Band in Sicht, die so aufregende improvisierte Musik macht. . [...] Wie lange soll das her sein? Es klingt, als habe sich diese Sternstunde des Jazz gestern Abend ereignet. [...] Mit ‚Sleeper’ hat diese einzigartige Band, die im Jazz so viel bewirkt hat, ihrem schmalen Oeuvre jetzt ihr unbekanntes Meisterwerk hinzugefügt.
Karl Lippegaus, Süddeutsche Zeitung

Vibrantly mixed and mastered, it’s an archival recording that still sounds scarily relevant, as if preceded by its own influence. Mr. Jarrett plays with imperious precision even when he’s reaching for the ecstatic, and Jan Garbarek exudes iridescent poise on tenor saxophone. As for the rhythm team of Palle Danielsson on bass and Jon Christensen on drums, their turbulent flow would be worth the price of admission alone, if it weren’t so inseparable from the whole.
Nate Chinen, The New York Times

The music here finds Jarrett in an uncannily inspired mood; he sounds like he has something to prove, and the interplay between him and Garbarek on driving pieces like ‚Personal Mountains’ and ‚Innocence’ creates flying sparks. It’ easy to forget that Jarrett used to be so supercharged, and he sounds , both digitally and vocally, motivated to keep up with the 97 octane superdrive provided by the rhythm section.
George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly

It’s an immensely satisfying adventure, one that took about 90 minutes to make and 33 years to release. Still, what a treat it is to hear Sleeper awaken.
Walter Tunis, Lexington Herald-Leader

Quirlige Agilität, eine unbändige Spiel- und Risikofreude, Spontaneität, schwindelfreie improvisatorische Höhenflüge und ein Repertoire mit sieben geradezu genialen Jarrett-Kompositionen lassen die Musik von Pianist Jarrett und seinen skandinavischen Kollegen Jan Garbarek (Saxophone, Flöre), Palle Danielsson (Bass) und Jon Christensen (Drums) noch heute moussieren wie Sauser im Stadium.
Jürg Sommer, Der Sonntag (CH)

In Sachen Interplay, lyrischer Kraft, Ideenreichtum, melodischer Prägnanz und energetischer Flugkraft ist und bleibt der Jazz dieser vier herben Schöngeister ein Massstab.
Pirmin Bossart, Neue Luzerner Zeitung

The release of Sleeper is an enormous treat for everyone who enjoys seriously good jazz. Over the course of his long career, Keith Jarrett has shown a true artist’s propensity to try just about everything. Even a brief rundown of the various styles he has explored would fill a couple of pages. The European Quartet was a grouping that had a magical chemistry, wich is unquestionably captured at one of its highest points on Sleeper. This one is a must.
Greg Barbrick, Blinded by Sound

By the mid-‘70s Keith Jarrett owned jazz, particularly after his 1975 solo album, The Köln Concert, the best-selling jazz piano recording in history. The American pianist, now 67, might well own jazz this year as well – kept on the shelf since its live recording in Tokyo in 1979, Sleeper is an out-of-nowhere triumph that might have been lost in the shuffle.
Peter Goddard, Toronto Star

[...] Jarrett’s Scandinavian quartet of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, drummer Jon Christensen (both Norwegian), abd bassist Palle Danielsson (Swedish) was something else again. Each player’s technical mastery, combined with their collectively perfect attunedness to one other, an apparently effortless intimacy of interplay that sounds telepathic, made them special even in a career as briliant as Jarrett’s – he wrotes his best tunes for this band. [...] This was clearly a high-energy night for the group, Jarrett so full of ideas he seems barely able to cram them in fast enough – but the music is never cluttered, and he never steps on his bandmates’s toes. His deftness and grace are remarkable. Ditto the rest of this band. Ditto the rest of ‘Sleeper’.
Richard Lehnert, Stereophile

Question: When is a previously unissued 33-year-old jazz masterpiece, one of the great jazz recordings of 2012?
Answer: When it’s the magnificent disc “Sleeper” which Keith Jarrett’s “European Quartet” recorded in Tokyo on April 16, 1979. This is not only the finest disc I’ve ever heard from Jarrett with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen, it’s as great as any saxophone quartet disc in Jarrett’s entire recording career.
Jeff Simon, Buffalo News

Jazz med extra allt – fantastiska melodier, besjälat samspel, en rytmisk vitalitet som fick musiken att dansa och en alldeles egen gruppklang. ”Innocence” görs lika öm och kärleksfull som ”Personal Mountains” är ostoppbart pulserande.
Alexander Agrell, Syd Svenskan

The pianist's European quartet is often recalled for the reflective beauty of 'My Song'or'Belonging'. But this 1979 set recorded in Tokyo is a reminder of the visceral energy that this quartet with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen could stoke up.
John Bungey, The Times

Vibrierende instrumentale Beschwörungsgesänge an den Gott des Groove wechseln sich mit pastoralen Passagen ab, die in ihrer harmonischen Tektonik den Skandinavienjazz der Jahrtausendwende vorwegnehmen.
Josef Engels, Die Welt

A superbly recorded 100+ minutes of free-flowing, rhythmically potent and melodically arresting music, all written by Jarrett and interpreted by one of the most lucid and characterful bands of its time. [...] the packaing has some rare and excellent black and white shots of the quartet in action. For me, it all adds up to a record of the year.
Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal

Die 33 Jahre alte Aufnahme aus der Konzerthalle des Nakano Sun Hotels in Tokyo darf man getrost als Juwel bezeichnen. Ein besonders wertvolles, weil das bisher veröffentlichte Werk des europäischen Keith Jarrett Quartetts nur ganze vier Produktionen umfasst.
Reiner H. Nitschke, Stereo

A l’écoute de ce concert capté a Tokyo en 1979, il se dégage effet une énergie rare qui circule entre les 4. Un power quartet comme l’on dirait aujourd’hui. Basé sur deux axes dont le premier est cette formidable complémentarité entre Jarrett et Garbarek, complémentarité contrastée dans des approches très différentes et qui crée ici des richesses harmoniques et mélodiques caprivantes. [...] Car l’autre pilier de ce groupe c’est l’association Palle Danielsson et Jon Christensen qui donne à cette formation une puissance rythmique capable de projeter loin devant la force et l’énergie du son de Garbarek. C’est tripal, tribal presque. [...] C’est bien plus qu’un témoignage, une preuve de vie.
Jean-Marc Gelin, lesdnj.com

Sieben Jarrett-Kompositionen, von denen manche an anderer Stelle anders interpretiert wurden, addieren sich kraftvoll perlend, mit traumwandlerischen Interaktionen und in ansteckender Vitalität zu einem nun endlich zugänglichen Hörfest.
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Leipziger Volkszeitung

Every Keith Jarrett release is an event, but this one, a previously unheard gem from a 1979 Tokyo concert by his European Quartet, is big news for the hyperactive prince of jazz piano.
Jack Massarik, Evening Standard

Even now, with more than 50 other ECM recordings to his name, among them some of the most celebrated jazz albums of the post-Coltrane era, Jarrett stands out for his playing with the European quartet - joyous, exuberant flights of pure melodic invention, imbued with a bright-eyed romanticism that is rare in modern jazz. [...] Mixed earlier this year by Kongshaug and Eicher, the sound is pristine and the intervening decades have not dimmed the music's brilliance. Indeed, it sounds so fresh it might have been recorded yesterday, which is surely the mark of truly great music.
Cormac Larkin, Irish Times

Der Förderer der vier, Manfred Eicher vom Münchner Label ECM, gibt nun mit 'Sleeper' nicht weniger als eine Sensation heraus. Der Titel verweist darauf, dass der nun gehobene Schatz 33 Jahre lang im Archiv geruht hat. Nun hört man diese bis dato unveröffentlichten 107 Minuten eines Konzerts vom 16. April 1979 in der Nakano Sun Plaza-Halle zu Tokio und kommt aus dem Staunen nicht heraus. Vier Musiker von Mitte 30 zelebrieren wuchtig, spielfreudig und voller Optimismus ein Hörfest der Superlative, das kein bißchen Staub angesetzt hat.
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung

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