Keith Jarrett – Standards, Vol. 1 – ECM Records 

by | Jun 21, 2019 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Keith Jarrett – Standards, Vol. 1 – ECM Records ECM 1255 6743202 (1983/2019), 45:18 ****:

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

While Keith Jarrett is known for his original compositions and improvisational largesse, he is equally adept at standards. Throughout his illustrious career, he has breathed new life into familiar and lesser known material. At the suggestion of Manfred Eicher, Jarrett recorded an album of standards (actually 2 albums) with double bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The trio had previously recorded together in 1977 on Peacock’s Tales Of Another. While the practice of recording jazz standards was customary for decades, it was contrary to Contemporary Jazz of the 1980’s. Following convention was never a crucial element to Jarret’s musical vision. When Keith Jarrett –  Standards Vol. 1 was released in 1983, it climbed to #14 on the jazz charts. Vol.2 failed to chart. The reviews for both were mixed, but the trio’s live performances were exciting.

As part of the 2019 ECM Touchstone series, iconic jazz label ECM has reissued Keith JarrettStandards Vol. 1. Like many extended Jarrett arrangements, there are five numbers that run for a total time of 45 minutes. The opening track, “Meaning Of The Blues” was written by trumpeter Bobby Troup (‘Route 66”) for his wife, singer Julie London. Her trademark sultry vocals established a substantial melancholy to the context. Later jazz players like Miles Davis, Stan Kenton, Gil Evans and Woody Herman established its jazz legacy. Jarrett begins his cover with a slightly lilting piano lead as Peacock and DeJohnette gently expand the music. There is a gliding rhythm that that creates a dream-like resonance. Jarrett’s right hand notation is adroit in its tempo sustainment and breezy accents. At just past the 4:00 mark, Peacock excels on a deft solo. Next, Jarrett explores Latin-infused motifs with a repeat vamp-driven solo. (Note; There is some ambient vocalese in the background). DeJohnette is a judicious counterpoint to Jarrett, and the jam comes to a quiet finish.

Jarrett is especially on his game for “All The Things You Are”. Written for Broadway (and screen) by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II,. the show tune has been transformed by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. There have also been many popular covers from singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. The arrangement is stridently up tempo with Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette swinging. The piano runs are percolating and hard driving. The essence of the melody is familiar, but the trio energizes it with hard bop flourishes. Peacock solos with Jarrett countering, and the last chorus and verse slow down to a hush. There are too many covers of the 1940 show tune “It Never Entered my Mind” (Rodgers and Hart) to enumerate. This cover is lyrical with a deft 3/4 time signature. DeJohnette’s timing and instrumental technique are flawless and Jarrett embraces a breezy vibe. The conclusion of the piece features haunting delicacy on the piano.

Never removed from musical eclecticism, the 1939 song, The Masquerade Is Over” adopts the finger-snapping “cool” template that runs through this album. It has a “live” feel that reflects the chemistry of the trio. Also, the final 0:45 injects a touch of ethereal charm. There are usually compelling, if not stunning elements to Keith Jarrett’s recordings. “God Bless The Child’ is clearly one of these moments. Forever associated with Billie Holiday (and resurrected in the 60’s by Blood Sweat & Tears), Jarrett reclaims this in his inimitable style. Unleashing a plethora of gospel-infused riffs and hooks, there is a certain hypnotic groove to the arrangement. For some musicians, a 15:33 track might become tedious, but not Keith Jarrett. His muscular chording keeps the repeat vibrant and soulful. DeJohnette matches Jarrett’s intensity with unflinching commitment. Jarrett and the trio distill the rhythmic spirituality of the piece, and there are jazzy chord changes in the chorus.

Keith Jarrett Standards Vol. 1 is a fine addition to any Keith Jarrett collection.

Meaning Of The Blues
All The Things You Are
It Never Entered My Mind
This Masquerade Is Over
God Bless The Child

-Robbie Gerson


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