Keith Jarrett piano, percussion
Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones
Palle Danielsson bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded in concert, April 1979, Tokyo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Despite being recorded in 1979, it would be a full decade before this jewel of a live recording from Keith Jarrett’s unparalleled European quartet (with Jan Garbarek on saxophone, Palle Danielsson on bass, and Jon Christensen on drums) would find itself sleeved and catalogued at last. From note one Personal Mountains paints melodic vistas of great majesty wrapped in a bow of rarified execution. As throughout, Garbarek’s blustery tone in the title opener proclaims themes with crystal-clear diction across the widening sky of Jarrett’s pianism. Jarrett himself takes an early leap in this outing, riding the rhythm section like a thoroughbred into open fields. He turns night into day with every chord, the fullness of his sound accentuated especially by Christensen’s rolling thunder as he unravels wonder after wonder. Yet even as Garbarek works his chromatic magic for the betterment of something profound, Christensen and Danielsson are given no small spotlight in which to shuffle their dialogue into a hollering tumble. Thus are we jettisoned skyward into an unexpected turn of phrase. Garbarek constructs hang gliders of melody in the thick night, every dip a chance to rise again. Meanwhile, Jarrett sews our hearts into the folds of a time unbound, thus moving us smoothly into “Prism.” Our usher this time is Danielsson, who pulls Jarrett’s ballad energy through a brushed corridor. Jarrett has all he needs from Garbarek to burn the midnight oil with a sparkling tapestry of soloing. His gentle cascades then release us into “Oasis” before Garbarek’s sharply inclined theme breaks the waves. Jarrett is again wondrous, spinning the finest spider’s thread into a wheel of adhesive memories. Offset by Christensen’s vibrancy, he and the others forge a vision for all senses. Jarrett invites us all by his lonesome into the aptly titled “Innocence.” Like a candle that barely trembles in the rhythm section’s sleeping breaths, his playing makes string games of moonbeams with the conviction of a dream. Of the latter we hear but a snippet in “Late Night Willie.” This gentle groove—bluesy enough to have Jarrett whooping all the same—gives us a soulful Garbarek and an overall elasticity which hurls us into an even deeper appreciation for the art at hand.
There is something magical about the pairing of Garbarek and Jarrett that brings out the best in both. And with such fine rhythmic support—and, to be sure, Danielsson and Christensen are as much melodicians as they are rhythmatists—one can hardly ask for anything grander. Although this is a live recording, one would hardly know it from the rapt silence that embraces this music until the audience’s applause breaks the spell.