Keith Jarrett Trio: Tribute (ECM 1420/21)

 

Keith Jarrett Trio
Tribute

Keith Jarrett piano
Gary Peacock bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded October 15, 1989, Philharmonie, Köln
Engineers: Jan Erik Kongshaug and O. Fries
Produced by Manfred Eicher

No one makes live records quite like the Keith Jarrett Trio, whose inimitable skills and synergy ensure us that every tune breathes with all the life it deserves. As one of the few groups that can draw in a crowd thousands of miles and years away into that indefinable moment of expression, it transcends the confines of the concert hall, of the jazz club, of the audience’s adoration. All of these recede the moment you put this music on and let it fill your own space and time with the love and passion what bore it. We hear this especially in the balladry, of which Jarrett proves an adept exponent in “Lover Man.” Dedicated (as all pieces on Tribute are to those who once performed them, hereafter in parentheses) to Lee Konitz, the piece expands such notions of genre to begin with, unraveling from characteristically somber piano intros a world of sentiment. Peacock is especially notable in his first solo of the night, tracing an outline that DeJohnette is more than happy to color in. Jarrett maintains enviable subtlety in his improvisations, working in a clever nod to “The Girl from Ipanema.” He dances on air, even as he plunges his hands into a watery keyboard and mixes the sediments until they shine. DeJohnette, meanwhile, works wonders with his snare, unfolding a ponderous yet somehow buoyant solo: a drop of melancholy in an otherwise joyful sea. All this in the opening number? Yes, it’s that good.

Such things are de rigueur in Jarrett Land. One could expound at great length, for example, on “I Hear A Rhapsody” (Jim Hall). From the fluid intro and swinging groove it dovetails to DeJohnette’s popcorn bursts, there’s so much to acknowledge for fear of doing the music injustice. DeJohnette and Peacock generally keep the flame low and steady as Jarrett turns all manner of somersaults, each a storm cloud waiting to burst, yet which instead couches rainbows. Down one of these Jarrett slides into a pot of golden applause. “Little Girl Blue” (Nancy Wilson) turns with the grace of a plumed bird bowing into the wind. Peacock again walks that fine line between heartbeat and fluster. The more up-tempo “Solar” (Bill Evans) finds Jarrett working his usual eddies into relief. One really notices the acoustics of the concert space, linking Jarrett’s submissions to the rhythm section’s stellar flip-flopping and moving us seamlessly into the exhilarating, sparkling piece of music-making that is “Sun Prayer.” A quintessential Jarrett tune if ever there was one, one feels in its shape a musical life lived to its fullest. DeJohnette flashes his powers as Jarrett weaves some of his densest pianism yet before baying into a translucent cove, where floats the detritus of a promise so enormous that it cannot help but embrace the world. “Just In Time” (Charlie Parker) delights with its odd timing, which sends Jarrett on a simply unstoppable journey as Peacock rides the DeJohnette train to Smoothville. The trio digs even deeper in quiet stunners like “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” (Coleman Hawkins), “All Of You” (Miles Davis), “It’s Easy To Remember” (John Coltrane), and “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men” (Anita O’Day), the latter graced by DeJohnette’s steam-engine brushes. A highlight in the album’s second half.

From the buoyant piano intro, “All The Things You Are” (Sonny Rollins) puts one in mind first of Gary Burton at the vibes before unleashing a rhythm section aflame, making for one of the trio’s most exhilarating tracks anywhere. More pure Jarrett follows in “U Dance.” This joyous romp seems porous, but would withstand even the sharpest bullets of criticism. A spirited turn from DeJohnette bridges us into the tune’s closing half, where we find ourselves still dancing even as the music recedes into the distance from which it spoke.

I typically don’t read other reviews before writing mine, but in my gathering of information for this one I took a look at the comments on Amazon, only to be shocked at one customer who proceeds to tell us how, listening to “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men” while driving, he (?) became so fed up with DeJohnette’s drumming that he rolled down his window and threw the CD onto the highway. Everyone is, of course, entitled to personal opinion, and my reviews are never meant to be prescriptive, but I find it baffling that anyone could react against DeJohnette so strongly on the basis of such an exhilarating album. Chalk it up to my drumming ignorance, but I daresay that DeJohnette’s is some of the best around. Among other things, on this recording he seems to have upped his snare work to something special in the grammar of his kit. I underscore this point only to prevent potential listeners from missing out on a tremendous experience.

Gorgeous to the last drop.

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