Keith Jarrett Trio – Somewhere – ECM 2200 B0018362-02, 65:32 ****½:
(Keith Jarrett – piano; Gary Peacock – doublebass; Jack DeJohnette – drums)
When you get three musicians that have played together for over three decades, it is beyond question that they know how to communicate with each other musically. When they make up what might be called the premiere interpreters of the Great American Standards repertoire, there is an expectation that their recording label (ECM) can pick and choose from their live recordings for the extra special sets that occur often, and especially when the trio is on their A+ game. Such is the case with the Keith Jarrett Trio.
On July 11, 2009 at the Lucerne Concert Hall in Switzerland, before an adoring audience, Keith, Gary, and John worked their magic. With a set list of primarily well-known standards, Jarrett chose to weave two extended tracks (Keith‘s “Deep Space” segues into Miles Davis’ “Solar”, and Bernstein’s unforgettable “Somewhere” coalesces into Jarrett’s “Everywhere.”) The other four tracks are well-covered chestnuts, but in the hands of Jarrett backed by the rock steady Peacock, and the intuitive, creative stick work of DeJohnette, the familiar becomes both re-imagined and re-invigorated.
This is comfort music in the best sense of the word. You know the standards, yet the interpretation that the trio brings to the familiar is more than sublime. Jarrett goes from classical piano voicings to the blues, and gospel, while using space, and letting chords and notes fully “decay” before proceeding. His instrument is allowed to resonate, and the sound matures within the listener’s ears. The trio both stays within the familiar melodies, but then suddenly goes in new directions that surely vary night by night. The communication between Keith and Gary is uncanny, and as special as Scott LaFaro had with Bill Evans. There is no comping going on here with each being full partners, while DeJohnette stirs the pot with polyrhythms, heavy on the cymbals.
As usual for those that can not ignore it, Jarrett’s grunting can be distracting, but it is a small cost to pay for the musicianship being provided. For me the ballads like “Stars Fell on Alabama” and “I Thought About You” bring an inner peace and an ecstatic vibe that is deeply comforting. Bernstein’s “Tonight” has a jauntiness that will make you sit up and appreciate this major piece of Americana.
As usual ECM’s engineering crew has the acoustics just right, having worked with the trio for so long. The concert hall’s warmth adds to the crispness that trio’s craft demands.
It is hard to know what to recommend from the trio’s extensive catalog to a newcomer. What seems to make the most sense is to let them review the song titles and pick the CDs based on that criteria. You certainly won’t be disappointed by the trio’s reworking of one’s favorite classic songbook songs.
TrackList: Deep Space/Solar, Stars Fell on Alabama, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Somewhere/Everywhere, Tonight, I Thought About You