Jarrett/Haden/Motian: Hamburg ’72 (ECM 2422)

Hamburg 1972

Keith Jarrett
Charlie Haden
Paul Motian
Hamburg ’72

Keith Jarrett piano, soprano saxophone, flute, percussion
Charlie Haden double bass
Paul Motian drums, percussion
NDR-Jazz-Workshop 1972
Radio producer: Michael Naura
Recording engineer: Hans-Heinrich Breitkreuz
Recorded live June 14, 1972 in Hamburg
Remixed July 12, 2014 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo by Jan Erik Kongshaug and Manfred Eicher
Album produced by Manfred Eicher

We may only speculate as to the untold Keith Jarrett riches still locked away in ECM’s vaults. The releases of Sleeper and, more recently, No End were but the tip of what is shaping up to be a majestic mountain indeed. Where those albums respectively showed us Jarrett’s European Quartet and homebody experiments, here lies something in between: a fearless document of a composer and improviser at the top of his game. Make that three.

We may make much of the fact that bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian are no longer with us, and that hearing them in this impervious creative triangle is like witnessing a resurrection. The trio was Jarrett’s first power group and had been in existence for six years already before the capture of this live recording at Hamburg’s NDR Funkhaus. Mixed by Manfred Eicher from the master tapes with engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in 2014—one day, we learn from the album’s press release, after Haden’s death—it is now in the public ear and here to stay.

Jarrett Hamburg

We may marvel at the nostalgic archaeology of Jarrett’s compositions, of which the thumbnail “Life, Dance” is exclusive to this album. Its breath of an intro gives the floor to Haden, who confirms mastery in less than three minutes. Haden and Jarrett slip hand-to-glove in “Everything That Lives Laments,” only now the pianist abandons keys for the spirit song of a wooden flute over Motian’s jangling percussion. Haden works the land until the piano sprouts from it like a tree. The sunny-side-up “Piece For Ornette” reminds us not only of Haden’s former tenure with Coleman, but also of what Jarrett might have been in another life: a soprano saxophonist of invention and merit. His dance finds purchase on an invigorating carpet, as laid down by attuned rhythmatists, lighting up the sky with firework potential. Motian is no less incendiary, but lights his playing as if by match to kerosene, keen to catch the ashes of Jarrett’s high-velocity chromatism in hands cupped like upturned cymbals. Lastly for this crop is “Take Me Back,” in which Haden’s echoes yield more reactive bassing. Equal parts jam band session (listen for Jarrett on tambourine for a spell before diving back into the keyboard) and gospel gush, it launches the trio into a prime, if not primal, groove.

We may further delight in the album’s outer edges. “Rainbow” opens with a hands-in-the-earth intro from Jarrett, whose first wife Margot pens the tune. In realizing the latter’s thematic structure, the full trio slides organically into place. Motian’s starry cymbals are foregrounded, while Jarrett caroms from one to another, leaving constellations in his wake. At the other end is “Song For Che,” which in this intimate, 15-minute version unclogs previously neglected arteries of interpretation. As the crowning jewel of Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, it defines personal and historic eras alike. After the leaping and lurking of Jarrett’s soprano, Haden works his arco magic to call the piano back into being before wading through the marsh alone toward closure, alive as ever.

We may do all of this and more, but forget that every act becomes part of the grander archive the moment it transpires. So while you’re enjoying this surprise dug up from the past with a glass of wine, take a moment to stare at your own reflection in that circle of burgundy and know that you are part of the music’s history as well.

(To hear samples of Hamburg ’72, click here.)

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