Keith Jarrett and friends `tune in' together for some rare jazz magic
To say that Keith Jarrett plays the piano with total abandon is an understatement. At a recent concert here at Avery Fisher Hall with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, Mr. Jarrett danced, twisted, flapped his arms, undulated, and played with absolutely sublime inspiration and mastery. This trio has been together seriously for a couple of years and has four albums to its credit. The trio performed in Boston this week. It's a change for Jarrett, who spent a decade doing solo piano concerts all over the world. Jarrett could not have found two more compatible performers to work with than DeJohnette and Peacock. All three are blessed with the quality of ``inspired placement'' -- that is, they not only know just what to play, but exactly when to play it. The effect is positively breathtaking when these men are totally tuned in, which, at least at this concert, seemed to be all the time.
The group is committed to playing songs from the standard repertoire of show tunes by well-known composers, along with a few tried and true jazz standards. But all three have had experience playing free jazz, where the success of the music depends not so much on song structure, as on the ability to relate to one another musically. The trio's close interaction contributed greatly to this performance, and allowed magical things to happen that sometimes don't happen in a presentation of this kind of material.
The program included ``All the Things You Are,'' ``If I Should Lose You,'' ``It's Easy to Remember,'' ``Some Day My Prince Will Come,'' and Dave Brubeck's ``In Your Own Sweet Way,'' among others. The mood throughout was sensitive, exhilarating, and joyful, and the musicians were obviously having a good time. The one factor that sets Jarrett's playing apart from many other jazz pianists is his touch. He has a way of playing each note with such a sense of beauty and purpose. Perhaps the secret lies in his body movement -- who can say? But however he does it, Jarrett achieves the purest possible tone as well as perfect dynamics. This was evident in his pristine, almost hymnlike version of ``It's Easy to Remember.''
DeJohnette, like Jarrett, is a ``dancer'' and a painter, besides. He skips over the drums, playing splashes of color that answer the musical questions of his cohorts and pose others. Peacock joins the dance, too, and adds an ingenuous charm to all that he does.
What really makes this music work is not just the exquisite balance between structure and freedom. The bottom line is unity of thought and heart -- a rare combination in any musical group -- and Jarrett, Peacock, and DeJohnette have it to spare.