Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette
University of California, Los Angeles – Royce Hall
Los Angeles, CA
November 16, 2000
Looking fit, trim and under 40, the three artists took the stage and captured the full attention of an appreciative audience. The auditorium was filled to capacity with a melting-pot, multi-generational throng eager for a quiet session with this veteran ensemble. Having first performed together in 1977 and cementing their trio relationship six years later, Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette share a common sense of direction through each piece. Standards are their bread & butter: songs from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s that ring familiar in the listener’s ears every time. But the treatment Jarrett’s trio applies to each tune is far from standard. Their 13 trio recordings on ECM Records emphasize this point. Whisper Not, a 2-CD set of the trio’s July 1999 concert in Paris, was available in the concert hall lobby.
When Jarrett opened a piece alone at the piano, the silence enabled everyone to hear his careful manipulation of the harmonies. When a rubato introduction shifted into standard time, the audience breathed a collective sigh at the wave of nostalgia. But it was their collective group improvisation that served to provide emotional material for the senses. Jarrett would sway to one side of the piano bench, away from the audience, rearrange a few chord clusters, and let out a vocal “aah.” At the same time, DeJohnette would be leaning to one side of his drum set and supplying an appropriate percussion phrase. During each extended group improvisation, Peacock held the two sides together solidly, as both pianist and drummer let their ideas flow back and forth. The years of working together have brought this trio so close that they seem to read each other’s thoughts. Swaying from side to side and oftentimes half-standing at the piano, Jarrett continued his strenuous pace throughout the evening. Peacock’s subdued bass solos emphasized lyricism over technique and served to contrast with the session’s more forceful moments.
Since Jarrett has suffered in recent years from the effects of an interstitial bacterial parasite that produces symptoms commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome, one has to wonder at the risk he’s taking. So much energy expended. But the resulting don’t-miss performance feeds those needs. Only Jarrett can tell if his touring schedule is a safe venture. His appearance at UCLA would seem to indicate that the pianist has beaten the odds.