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Jan Garbarek and Hilliard Ensemble, A unique pairing reunites for a farewell tour - 'Remember Me, My Dear' / KIND OF JAZZ

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It's hard to believe, but Officium - the first collaboration between Norwegian saxophonist, Jan Garbarek, and the English vocal group, the Hilliard Ensemble, took place twenty-five years ago, back in 1994. That album, perhaps against all odds, achieved crossover success, helping to bring jazz - and indeed choral singing - to new audiences worldwide. Twenty years, and three albums later, the two parties reunited for a farewell tour, after which the Hilliard Ensemble disbanded in December 2014. Remember Me, My Dear, was recorded live on that farewell tour, in the Collegiate Church of Sts Peter and Stephen in Bellinzona, Switzerland. 

Many purists complained at the time that this music was not jazz. I had the chance to watch them perform on their debut tour, in Tokyo, and it was clear that there was plenty of improvisation from both parties as the music stretched and evolved from that first recording. The Hilliards had to leave more space for the saxophone than they were used to, whilst Garbarek moved around the auditorium, a theatre, and looked to use the space as a sixth instrument, leaning into the curved walls with his saxophone, and allowing the sound to take on a whole new dimension.

Twenty years later, the improvisation was still an important part of the music. Soundchecks were often brief, as they would sing or play a few notes, and then listen to what the building had to say about them. As John Potter, one of the original members of the Ensemble noted in the program notes for their final show, the musicians would then wander to different parts of the building, to see how they might best use the space later that evening. In the excellent liner notes, Steve Lake remembered how the Ensemble became more daring over time, "separating and walking slowly through the church while singing, voices drifting through the nave, or reflecting off ancient stones."

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