Keith Jarrett At The Blue Note – ECM Records 

by | Jul 26, 2019 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Keith Jarrett At The Blue Note – Saturday, June 4th 1994 1st Set – ECM Records ECM 1577 674 3195 (1995/2019), 70:35 ****1/2:

(Keith Jarrett – piano; Gary Peacock – double bass; Jack DeJohnette – drums)

As part of the eagerly anticipated ECM Touchstones, fifty re-mastered CDs were released in 2019. Winner of the 2019 JJA Jazz Award for Label Of The Year, a wide variety of jazz artists have established a recording legacy with ECM. Perhaps the greatest star is jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. The Allentown native began his career at the label in 1971 with Facing You, an album consisting of eight solo tracks. Throughout this five-decade association, Jarrett has performed in a variety of formats (solo, duo, trio, quartet) in jazz and classical music. Paired with founder-producer Manfred Eicher, the partnership has resulted in unforgettable, aspirational music. Jarrett’s ability to improvise (many credit The Koln Concerts as the birth of the improvisational concert genre) allows him to interpret standards with complicated finesse. His trio with double bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette became a signature collaboration. The trio’s Standards Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 were successes for ECM in 1983 and subsequently 2019.

Keith Jarrett At The Blue NoteThe Complete Recordings was a collection of six live sets recorded in June of 1994. This was the first New York performance in 11 years, and live performance is an integral part of this pianist’s legacy. Saturday June 4th 1994 1st Set is the initial release in this series. The opening track, “Autumn Leaves is vintage Jarrett and sustains the elaborate historical perspective of this jazz standard. Jarrett begins with a flexible chord adaptation representing some of the core melody. This improvisation lasts over 4 minutes as the trio shifts into medium swing and picks up the recognizable verse. Jarrett glides through the lead as Peacock adds a deft, skipping bass and DeJohnette anchors this jam. There are a plethora of forceful chords and notation and Peacock solos at the 9:05 mark. Jarrett’s solos become more dynamic with soulful hooks and tempo-driven accents , bringing a cool jazz resonance. This leads into one of DeJohnette’s hot drum fills. The band closes with a hushed single note repeat and an atmospheric run on piano A twenty-six minute set opener might be tedious in the hands of another group, but not this one. Like many jazz classics, “Days Of Wine And Roses” entered the music world as a popular ballad with versions sung by the likes of Andy Williams and Tony Bennett. The composer, Henry Mancini released an instrumental as well. The melancholic opus was a draw for jazz musicians, most notably Bill Evans. Jarrett engages the nuanced agility of Mancini with a heartfelt eloquence in his introduction. At 3:20 the trio transitions seamlessly into a gentle swing that gives elasticity to the arrangement. Peacock’s has a muscular solo and Jarrett simply glows, executing sprightly runs, always returning to compositional elements of this evocative piece. They slow down the rhythm with great dramatic effect.

Showcasing fierce jazz licks, “Bop-Be” is freewheeling and up tempo. Jarrett punctuates the solo with a dazzling array of notation. Peacock and DeJohnette are a united force and both  solo prior to the final handoff to Jarrett. Reaching into The Great American Songbook, “You Don’t Know What Love Is” brings the harmonic and arrangement skills of Jarrett into focus. With an established Latin rhythm, Jarrett weaves through the song with elegance and precision. DeJohnette’s no stick drum solo is mesmerizing as Jarrett’s higher register notation delivers a haunting cinematic resonance. His playing becomes more crisp with exotic motifs. His improvised tapestry of emphatic inflection and imagery is hypnotic. Taking the familiar and refining it to jazz integrity is quintessential Keith Jarrett. The warm reticence of “When I Fall In Love” is captured by Jarrett’s erudite inflection. The trio remain in the calm sentiments of this beloved song, but it sounds fresh.

As usual, producer Manfred Eicher and engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug create the perfect acoustics for this live album. The mic placement is balanced and the crowd noise is virtually non-existent. Jazz lovers will like this re-mastered series.

Autumn Leaves
Days Of Wine And Roses
You Don’t Know What Love Is
When I Fall In Love

—Robbie Gerson



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