- Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette
The problem with the Keith Jarrett Trio is that the legendary pianist and his wingmen – bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette – are expected to be magnificent. They have been for 30 years now, having set the bar high with 1983’s Standards, Volume 1 and never faltering since. And therein lies the problem: plug just about any other three names into the credits for the trio’s newly-released Somewhere and you’d see headlines touting the arrival of a jazz masterpiece. In the case of DeJohnette, Peacock, and Jarrett Somewhere is simply business as usual.
Of course, there are far worse problems to have – and at this point, none of these three accomplished players are seeking out fodder for their clippings scrapbooks. The point of bringing this up is that Somewhere deserves to be heard and paid attention to, even if it is what the Jarrett Trio is supposed to do. Masters of on-the-fly interaction and reaction, these three musicians repeatedly take chances and mid-flight detours in the course of pieces with enough talent behind them to keep things from getting dangerous.
The album (recorded live in Switzerland in 1999) begins with a bit of solo piano exploration by Jarrett – the wide-ranging emotions of “Deep Space” eventually make their way into Miles Davis’ “Solar” as Peacock and DeJohnette glide into the mix. The trio takes turns pushing and challenging each other (pay particular attention to Peacock’s beautiful rumble acting as mediator betwixt melody and rhythm) before easing the piece to a gentle finish.
“Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea” – featuring some of Jarrett’s most passionate off-mic moans and scatted yelps of the set – flirts with a swing arrangement for ten minutes but never quite crosses the threshold. A little over four-and-a-half minutes into “Stars Fell On Alabama” Peacock will break your heart with a nothing-but-lovely bass solo; “I Thought About You” is a slow walk home in the moonlight; and “Tonight” is tackled full-throttle, Jarrett testing the DeJohnette/Peacock drivetrain – or is it the other way around?
If I wanted to make my point about this album with a single cut, it would have to be the title track. Let’s say you’re a fan of improvisational music but have never had much time for “that jazz stuff”: wrap your mind around what you truly, truly dig about the deepest of jams from the artists you favor – and then drop yourself into the heart of “Somewhere/Everywhere”. The first portion is a Bernstein/Sondheim piece from West Side Story that the trio eases into, gently caressing it before rolling their sleeves up. Peacock’s bass begins the process of exploring the song’s available melodic and rhythmic possibilities: if dub reggae can be defined as deconstructing and then reconstructing a piece of music, then what Peacock, DeJohnette, and Jarrett pull off in 19 minutes and 37 seconds is their own form of acoustic dub, reshaping and accenting different parts of “Somewhere” until it becomes “Everywhere” – a totally different place to be. Once Peacock lights the fuse early on, he retreats to the engine room as Jarrett slowly works his way to the forefront, spinning a roundabout of chords and flourishes that challenge DeJohnette’s beautifully tumbling toms. The result is a hypnotic weave that’s perfect to get lost inside of as it changes shape around you. Veterans of this sort of shape-shifting, the trio formation fly the piece into position, landing it delicately nearly twenty minutes after it began.
As the crowd applauds, you can hear laughter, no doubt picked up by a mic on Jarrett’s piano. It’s the sound of masters having taken chances, delighted by what they discovered.
Newcomers to this music will be delighted, as well – it’s an amazing piece of work. And if you’re a longtime follower of the Jarrett Trio, then you know the deal, as discussed earlier.
Yes, they’ve done it again.
Brian Robbins retreats to the engine room over at www.brian-robbins.com