Jarrett/Peacock/Motian: At The Deer Head Inn (ECM 1531)

Keith Jarrett
Gary Peacock
Paul Motian
At The Deer Head Inn

Keith Jarrett piano
Gary Peacock bass
Paul Motian drums
Recorded September 16, 1992 at the Deer Head Inn
Engineer: Kent Heckman
Produced by Bill Goodwin

By the fall of 1992, Keith Jarrett had already spent 30 years as a notable jazz performer. What better way to celebrate than to return to this record’s eponymous venue in his birthplace of Allentown, Pennsylvania for a once-in-a-lifetime gig? Switching out his usual go-to, Jack DeJohnette, for Paul Motian (no stranger to Jarrett, with whom he’d worked in the 70s), the trio works wonders with the new colors the latter provides. Peacock and Jarrett are both verbose players who manage never to step on each other’s toes. With Motian backing them, they take longer pauses for reflection, listening to the wind as it blows through their leaves. His presence and panache are as palpable as the prevalence of alliterations in this sentence, bringing an irresistible brushed beat to the squint-eyed groove of Jaki Byard’s “Chandra.” That hook keeps us sharp to improvisatory angle and inspires some youthful banter from Peacock, who feeds off those drums like Christmas. Motian excels further in the balance of fire and ice that bubble throughout “You And The Night And The Music.” The band also dips into Miles Davis-era waters with glowing renditions of “Solar” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.” Atop quilted commentaries from the man at the kit, Jarrett’s unpacking of these timeless melodies is the cherry on the sundae. Sweet toppings also abound in the laid-back “Basin Street Blues,” in which, with closed eyes and an open heart, Peacock finds the perfect resolution for Jarrett’s uncontainable fire. All three musicians up the ante in “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” Jarrett negotiates its changes like breathing while Peacock and Motian speak in vocabularies just beyond the radar of feasibility. Before we know it, we’re caught up in a joyous surge and relaxation. By ending with “It’s Easy To Remember,” the trio saves its finest translucent china for last.

The value of ECM as a live archive is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt in this recording. This is where it’s at.

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