Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek took several intriguing stylistic turns early in his career, none more extreme than that shown on Triptykon. While he had always shown an affinity for the work of Albert Ayler and other free jazz musicians who came of age in the '60s, his prior albums retained a more straight-ahead rhythmic drive and more than a passing nod to experimental rock and fusion. Here, he jettisoned guitarist Terje Rypdal and replaced the sometimes overly delicate percussion work of Jon Christensen with the more earthy and heavy sounding Edward Vesala. The result is an expressionist trio drawing on both free improvisation and Scandinavian folk tunes, roaring, stumbling, and reeling, evoking an aural equivalent of Edvard Munch. Garbarek's work on all his reeds is assured and imaginative, even as the context is often dark and bleak. In particular, his soprano playing -- as on the title track -- is remarkably poignant, and it's not difficult to conjure up images of keening water birds patrolling the sub-Arctic fjords. The closing folk song, "Bruremarsj," is a drunkenly striding marvel that Ayler would've loved. Witchi-Tai-To, Garbarek's next album for ECM, would his aesthetic high point, but Triptykon isn't very far behind. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick