The Survivors’ Suite
Keith Jarrett piano, soprano saxophone, bass recorder, celeste, osi drums
Dewey Redman tenor saxophone, percussion
Charlie Haden bass
Paul Motian drums, percussion
Recorded April 1976 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
A quick perusal of the personnel and mechanics of this album is practically all one needs to get an idea of the tonal colors and moods with which its imagery is composed. The Survivors’ Suite finds Jarrett in a multi-instrumental role along with the all-star cast that makes up his American Quartet. The sheer synergy of the playing truly makes this music shimmer. For this reason, I hesitate to single out particular solos and motifs. Suffice it to say each member has his moment of glory in the concisely knit fabric of the album’s 49-minute duration.
The music shifts dramatically from soulful dirges to upbeat thematic variations in a vibrant flow of ideas. A sense of control reigns. One never feels lost while listening (or is, in fact, lost but doesn’t care), for the surroundings are so resplendent with life. This is a supremely evocative experience and the similarity of associations it has inspired in so many listeners is striking to say the least (peruse a few other reviews, and you’ll see what I mean). The Survivors’ Suite reaches beyond jazz, even if firmly rooted in jazz’s soil. Its sound is vast yet intimate, breathing with the sheer life force of its music-makers. There is a marked difference between its two sections, simply titled “Beginning” and “Conclusion.” They are not polar opposites and are more than complementary. They walk the same trails, perhaps pointing out different sights along the way, all the while knowing they will soon meet again. Where the former is timid yet progressive, the latter is democratic and viscous.
This is, without a doubt, a high point among Jarrett’s many ECM outings. It is expertly recorded (as evidenced by its superb balance of warmth and coolness), fluidly played, and widely cherished, as I am sure it will continue to be for decades to come.