Keith Jarrett Trio: Bye Bye Blackbird (ECM 1467)

Keith Jarrett Trio
Bye Bye Blackbird

Keith Jarrett piano
Gary Peacock bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded October 12, 1991 at Power Station, New York
Engineer: Jay Newland
Mastered by Jan Erik Kongshaug
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher

Seeing that Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette all once shared a stage with Miles Davis early on in their careers, it’s no wonder that they should step into New York’s Power Station studio, where the trio first took shape, for this classic tribute session. Recorded just 13 days after the Prince of Darkness’s passing, Bye Bye Blackbird sits above the rest for its sheer profundity of expression. The Keith Jarrett Trio is, of course, not an outfit to take itself lightly: with an average track length of over eight minutes, we can rest assured that every tune will be carried to conclusions far beyond our reckoning.

The title opener welcomes us into a nostalgic world, glimpses of what it must have been like to work with Miles. The high-end musings into which the music evolves speak to the ecstasy that any such musician must have felt at those moments of ethereal access. One cannot help but notice how energetic, for the most part, this session is. Between the swinging “Straight No Chaser” and “Butch And Butch,” there’s more than enough to get excited about. Jarrett is as fine as ever, singing his way through every spiraling change like a child skipping into the magic of “Summer Night.” Here, Peacock plays with a more consolatory air, allowing a tear or two before the 18.5-minute group improv “For Miles” lifts wheels from tarmac. After a spate from DeJohnette and a lush pianistic flowering, the cloud cover of our lingering grief fades with each new shift. The inescapable “I Thought About You” then brings us into the excerpted “Blackbird, Bye Bye,” closing us out with a kiss and a sigh.

Yet for me, the brushed beauties of “You Won’t Forget Me” ring most authentically. A reflective solo from Peacock buoys Jarrett, who stretches his own veils across the stars, cupping an entire city in his hands and keeping all who dwell within it warm against the chill of remorse. We will indeed not ever forget him.

A note on production. The sound of this recording is distinctive—compressed and sere. I imagine it was recorded with very little preparation, and the fact that it was later mastered by Jan Erik Kongshaug indicates an absence of engineers when the tracks were laid down. This gives the music an archival ring, reaching back to the atmosphere of the 60s, without which nothing on this heartfelt album would have existed. Whether calculated or not, I appreciate the throwback. One can feel this music on the verge of exploding, looking respectfully, distantly, and with deference to the past. Suitably recorded for a moment-in-time sort of feel, it is like the capsule of a bygone era unearthed in a silent world.

<< Krakatau: Volition (ECM 1466)
>> Dmitri Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues (ECM 1469/70 NS)

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