Officium, the first collaboration between Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble, proved one of the most popular releases in ECM's history; the follow-up Mnemosyne and now Officium Novum have continued the alliance of religious singing with sax improvisations into farther-flung areas, this time focusing on the Armenian music.
For me, the sax too frequently disturbs the sense of grace and poised piety in the vocals, despite the shared austerity of tone. The most successful piece is the 13-minute "Litany", where both elements contribute without crowding. Elsewhere, the two blend best when Garbarek's sax most closely resembles the dry warmth of the duduk flute, as on "Ov zarmanali".
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