Keith Jarrett, Whisper Not (2 discs) ECM Records, ECM 1724/25, 2000 Cyberhome: www.ecmrecords.com Recorded live in 1999 at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, Keith Jarrett's standards trio has rarely sounded more focused and brilliant. For one thing, a premium is put on brevity. There are none of the aimless 20-minute codas that one hears on some previous albums. Only "What Is This Thing Called Love," which opens disc two, exceeds the 10-minute mark. Otherwise, the tunes are played in the same kind of straight-to-the-point manner that Jarrett employed on his previous outing, The Melody At Night, With You.
But quite unlike that supremely understated solo recital, these two discs feature plenty of spellbinding virtuosity. Jarrett taps into bebop streams of consciousness on "Bouncing With Bud," "Hallucinations," "Conception," and a very fast "Groovin' High." He introduces "Whisper Not," the ultimate mid-tempo hardbop theme, with the elegance of a classical impromptu. And on the ballads he's simply stunning. While "Chelsea Bridge," "'Round Midnight," "Prelude to a Kiss," and "When I Fall In Love" are wonderful, the highlight is the less well-known "All My Tomorrows." Gary Peacock takes the first solo, and then Jarrett takes flight - briefly, with sublime restraint - before bringing the tune to a wondrously hushed conclusion.
Jack DeJohnette is wily, trading fours on the bop tunes with quick-reflexed invention. Often he'll locate just the right textural detail and execute it perfectly, such as punctuating the end of a rhythmic phrase with a firm knock on the splash cymbal. Peacock sounds terrific in both solo and support roles, and his bass sound is captured nicely on this unblemished recording.
Jarrett, emerging from a three-year battle with chronic fatigue syndrome, seems to have triumphed. He once said that the disease would be better described as "forever dead" syndrome. But now, Jarrett once again sounds forever alive. ~David R. Adler Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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Keith Jarrett, The Melody At Night, With You (55:18); ECM 1675, 1999 ECM Records Postfach 600 331 81203 München, Germany Cyberhome: www.ecmrecords.com I once heard a well-known pianist refer to Keith Jarrett as "the Elton John of jazz," and it wasn't a slam. I think James Taylor is more like it. Taylor's music has a certain country-blues Americanism; it lives in a galaxy nearer to Jarrett's gospel- and folk-tinged songs and improvisations. It's true, Jarrett has always been unafraid of simple, pop-like harmony and melody. To everything there is a season: a time to sound like Bud Powell, a time to sound like Richard Wagner, and yes, a time to sound like James Taylor. For decades Jarrett has woven it all into one breathtaking story after another. Now battling chronic fatigue syndrome, Jarrett is subdued but strong. On this new solo piano album he eschews extended improvisation, instead offering up disarmingly simple versions of ten classic songs. There's almost no vocalizing or grunting or technical display. What there's plenty of, as the title suggests, is melody. "I Loves You Porgy" is sublime, especially the bridge. "I Got It Bad," the only track on which the virtuoso takes over, provides a window on how Jarrett uses a melody to guide his improvising. Off-the-cuff codas on this and "Someone To Watch Over Me" illustrate Jarrett's ability to make any tune under the sun his very own. Two traditional songs, "Shenandoah" and the waltz "My Wild Irish Rose," are the strongest evocations of Jarrett's James Taylor side. In contrast, he gives the Dietz/Schwartz tune "Something To Remember You By" the most harmonically complex treatment on the album. The sad and beautiful "Blame It On My Youth" segues into a thematically linked improvisation titled "Meditation," but the two sections are listed as a single track. This spare, elegant recording contains valuable lessons for beginning jazz musicians who are eager to dive headlong into highly advanced theory. Lesson one: master basic harmony. When you think you've mastered it, master it some more. Listen to the magic Jarrett can create with a simple turnaround or resolution. Lesson two: never forget about melody. Melodies move people. Melodies move Keith Jarrett. And being moved is what music is for. Thank goodness we've got Jarrett to remind us. ~David R. Adler
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