Keith Jarrett Trio: Always Let Me Go (ECM 1800/01)

Always Let Me Go

Keith Jarrett Trio
Always Let Me Go

Keith Jarrett piano
Gary Peacock double-bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded April 2001 at Orchard Hall and Bunka Kaikan, Tokyo
Recording Engineer: Yoshihiro Suzuki
Produced by Manfred Eicher and Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett is infinity with two hands. Few have ever molded the keyboard into such prosthesis of expression. Yet while he and his nonpareil cohorts—bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette—have repeatedly proven affinity for expanding, sometimes breaking down, the borders of many a jazz standard, relatively miniscule in the trio’s archive is its entirely unscripted output. And while we have gotten tastes of that archive in such albums as Inside Out and Changeless, this double-disc release is formidable for being, from start to finish, purely in the moment. One of the beauties of the album, recorded live in Tokyo over two nights, is that the longer pieces (upwards of 35 minutes) are actually the most concentrated, while the briefer ones (the shortest being under four minutes) are spacious and flossy.

At 32 minutes, “Hearts in Space” is a vivid example of the former. Jarrett opens the pathway with some galactic patterning indeed, which his rhythmatists then re-craft into a drum-infused satellite, its circuits frantic yet pure. The bassist is, in fact, the fulcrum of this opener, although Jarrett and DeJohnette do more than simply lob quasars of activity over him. Together these three strands form a braid stronger than the sum of their parts. Through their art, the surrounding air becomes enigmatically complete, so that even as the mood brightens onto a smoother avenue, where Jarrett has crushed the gravel so finely that the shocks of presumption no longer need bounce, one can still feel the storm in the calm. With Peacock’s intimate scaffolding behind him, Jarrett perseveres through some swing into a spontaneous standard, leaving a tailwind to inhale its absence.

Jarrett exhales “The River” with rearview mirror tilted anew. His glassine block chords and trailing chromatics weave a reverie so holy, tender, and mild that it sings without words. Following naturally from this is “Tributaries,” which paints with DeJohnette’s cymbal droplets, Peacock’s broad ripples, and Jarrett’s fairy-steps an image of mythical cast. The musicians’ trembling glitters like gold at the bottom of the Rhine, describing it not as temptation or curse, but out of a love of ignorance, of travel and movement. DeJohnette’s toms ease us onto the spiritual angles of this scene in arching ritual, tightening even as they loosen in shimmering afterglow. The drummer leads further in “Paradox,” pouring copious amounts of bourbon onto Jarrett’s jagged rocks while Peacock savors every sip with mmms of approval. An inherent free spirit works its way through the fissures here especially, manifesting as audible smiles.

Another pianistic reverie rises and falls throughout “Waves” like the chest of personified time. Peacock creeps into frame, his bass neck a periscope in search of land. This it finds, lured by the sun-glitter of cymbals. Once ashore, the trio hits the sand running, gathering provisions and making shelter in the blink of an eye. The end effect, although illusory, bleeds in tectonic shifts and opens dynamic memories across genres and histories. This summary approach takes deepest root in DeJohnette’s explosive wellsprings and rat-a-tatted closing statements and brightens his torch in the consonant admixture of children’s riddles and adult solutions that is “Facing East.” Its island hopping ways spill over into “Tsunami,” which like its eponym begins with imperceptible bubbles and curling undercurrents. By the time one realizes its proportions, its power cannot be avoided. So it crashes, leaving stillness and piles of grief. In the aftermath is “Relay,” a buoyant circumscription of energy that, by virtue of its dotted boundaries, leaves the trio free to roam inwardly to heart’s content where the external world will not allow.

Always Let Me Go may not be to everyone’s liking, but it was undoubtedly gifted with everyone in mind. In it are the dreams of a gentle giant, together a fraction of some unquantifiable composition. Although the giant may stir, the spell is never broken. It waits for that window of slumber to open and welcome us to the fold of its light.

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