Keith Jarrett has one of those artistic temperaments. After walking out on Miles Davis in the late ’60s, he refused to ever touch an electric keyboard again. Throughout his own career, he rejected imperfectly tuned pianos, demanded smokeless environments long before they became a legal offense and disappeared from public view for long stretches of time. He also notoriously moaned, hummed and cried out while playing, a habit which marred some of his best trio recordings.
Jarrett was also famed for giving free Sunday concerts on the lawn of his European home. In concert, he would sometimes play for hours on a single piece without a break, his entire body writhing uncontrollably around the keyboard. These epic improvisations were captured on his brilliant mid-’70s solo works “The Koln Concert” and “Sun Bear Concerts,” the latter a 10-LP-long set of improvised concerts recorded live in Japan.
Jarrett’s latest release, “Up For It,” finds his longtime trio reaching the heights of those solo works with even greater refinement. This trio, made up of Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, has had an unusually long and productive association. On their many recordings released steadily over the past two decades, they have enlivened a broad repertoire of jazz standards. Their new release, recorded live at last summer’s jazz festival in Juan-les-Pins, France, shows the trio once again redefining these standards with exceptional fluidity and deep lyrical feeling.
The trio stakes new claims on two tunes made famous by Davis, “My Funny Valentine” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” They treat these two songs as fragile objects to be handled with care. Light brushwork and understated bass lines create a soft cushion for Jarrett’s delicate, thoughtful piano tones. Charlie Parker’s bop classic “Scrapple from the Apple” bounces along with quick-witted associations and playful glee. Here, the trio works with speed and skill to evoke Parker’s style, while adding their own repartee.
Even on the most clear-cut melodies, such as “If I Were a Bell,” the trio pulls the harmonies into taut patterns, only to release them in unexpected and far-ranging directions. Jarrett plays like no other pianist. His phrasing is distinctive, unfolding endlessly into long strands of complex musical thought. His range of tones and textures is vast and incredibly subtle. This live recording captures Jarrett’s trio, one of the most consummate in jazz, in peak form.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.