Keith Jarrett Trio: Live In Japan 93/96 (ECM 5504/05)

Live In Japan

Keith Jarrett Trio
Live In Japan 93/96

Keith Jarrett piano
Gary Peacock bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded live in Tokyo, July 25, 1993 at Open Theater East
Director: Kaname Kawachi
Recorded by Toshio Yamanaka
Produced by Yasuhiko Sato
Executive producers: Hisao Ebine and Toshinari Koinuma
Recorded live in Tokyo, March 30, 1996 at Hitomi Memorial Hall
Director: Kaname Kawachi
Recorded by Toshio Yamanaka
Produced by Yasuhiko Sato
Executive producers: Hisao Ebine and Toshinari Koinuma
Concerts produced by Koinuma Music

It’s one thing to hear, but quite another to see, the Keith Jarrett Trio in action. For those unable to do so in a live setting, this two-DVD release is the next best thing. Like the Standards I/II set that precedes it, this one was recorded in Tokyo, but puts about a decade between those first Japan performances.

Japan 1

A 1993 gig at Open Theater East takes place in the heart of a sweltering summer. The air shines both with the music and with the rain that forces a large and dedicated audience to listen from beneath ponchos, and the musicians to play from beneath a clear canopy. The video quality is much finer this time around, and despite a rocky start born of technical issues and the weather, captures one of the trio’s finest sets available on any medium.

Japan 2

What separates this concert from the others available on DVD is the openness of the band’s aura. Jarrett more than ever plays for his appreciative listeners because he understands the bond into which nature has pushed them. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Jarrett’s The Köln Concert also famously began in the least ideal of conditions. Clearly, the pressure set him on an unprecedented creative path. And so, even as the trio struggles to feel out the climate in Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” (throughout which Jarrett must often wipe down the keyboard with a towel), all while latecomers snake to their seats, we can feel the groove emerging one muscle at a time. After the worldly touches of “Butch And Butch” and “Basin Street Blues,” we know that things have been set right.

Japan 3

Whereas in the previous Japan documents Peacock proved himself the man of the hour (although, to be sure, the breadth of his architectures in “If I Were A Bell” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily” are as masterful as they come), it’s DeJohnette who produces the deepest hues of this rainbow. His sticks make evergreens like Sonny Rollins’s “Oleo” that much greener, and turn a 26-minute rendition of Miles Davis’s “Solar,” combined with Jarrett’s “Extension,” into a downright sacred space.

Japan 4

As with the 1986 concert on Standards I/II, the trio ends on three encores: “Bye Bye Blackbird,” Jarrett’s “The Cure,” and “I Thought About You.” In all of this one can sense a quiet storm of commitment to the music that flows from within. Melodies breathe, reborn, requiring open hearts to know their graces.

Japan 5

The year 1996 brings us to Hitomi Memorial Hall, where Jarrett and friends jump fully refreshed into “It Could Happen To You.” As always, Jarrett’s lyrical intro reveals little about the mosaics soon to follow. He takes the theme and its surrounding chords as a starting point down densely textured corridors. Which is, of course, what improvisation is all about: dungeon crawling without a map yet knowing that a destination will wrap its arms around you eventually. Jarrett seems to unravel every possible path into its fullest and on through the ballad “Never Let Me Go,” in which the pianist transcends the status of storyteller to that of myth keeper.

Japan 6

“Billie’s Bounce” is a staple not only for its composer, Charlie Parker, but also for Jarrett. As one of his prime expressive spaces, it layers all the bread and butter that make his art so nourishing. But we mustn’t forget that each member of this unit is equally important. In “Summer Night,” Peacock’s gentility is Jarrett’s flame, shining like the moon with a song to sing, and DeJohnette’s opening to “I’ll Remember April” shows a drummer with just as much to say from the bedrock, even as Jarrett evolves in real time through every change in the rapids above.

Japan 7

Other standbys such as “Mona Lisa” and crowd favorite “Autumn Leaves” open as many new avenues as they retread. With a crispness of feeling, Jarrett grabs the spotlight, while lively soloing from Peacock and fancy brushwork from DeJohnette make the picture whole. Even the familiar strains of “Last Night When We Were Young” become something new when they melt into Jarrett’s groovier “Carribean Sky.” It’s what one can always count on with this trio: playing as if for the first time.

Japan 8

The Bud Powell tune “John’s Abbey” commands from the sidelines as Peacock and DeJohnette go from canter to gallop and sets off a rapid-fire succession of closing tunes. A touching rendition of “My Funny Valentine” falls like a tear of quiet joy into Jarrett’s “Song,” in which the musicians open a book you always meant, and at last have the chance, to read again. “All The Things You Are” and Ray Bryant’s lesser-heard “Tonk” end the set with a satiating balance of delights. Nothing added, nothing taken away.

Japan 9

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