Keith Jarrett Trio Returns to the Kimmel Center: "The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Tour"

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The set was more relaxed and informal and had the feeling of a club date or even at times a jam session.

Keith Jarrett Trio
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Verizon Hall
Philadelphia, PA

September 19, 2008

The universally acclaimed Keith Jarrett Trio returned for its third visit to the Kimmel Center as part of its "Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Tour" and to kick off the new season of Citibank-sponsored jazz events. I reviewed the Trio's last performance there in April, 2004. The current performance was similar in that it featured a host of standards, but differed in its "flavor.".

The 2004 concert was a seriously disciplined show of virtuosity and sophistication. By contrast, the current set was more relaxed and informal and had the feeling of a club date or even at times a jam session. The group appeared even a bit dazed at times, and Jarrett's few remarks were light and humorous, providing welcome relief from his legendary barbed attacks and confrontations. There was more of a sense of the experimentation that often occurs when a jazz group does a late night set in a club. At times, they achieved the exhilaration and spontaneity that leads audiences to tap their toes and add excited "yelps" to their applause for solos. That added a sense of fun to the exceptional and creative exploration of the music that invariably characterizes this legendary group. As my friend, jazz pianist Tom Lawton, told me afterward, "It was a truly great concert. I especially dug the second half. Jarrett's one of the most versatile pianists in the jazz world. He was in top form, very ebullient and florid, with some introspective moments..."

What can a reviewer say about Keith Jarrett and this long-lived Trio that hasn't been said before? One can only repeat the encomiums, as from my last review: "Jarrett's virtues include his remarkable mastery of the piano and of music, along with his extraordinary ability to invent new lines, uncannily avoiding lapses and cliches. He has taken the art of improvisation to a level unheard of before him. And he is an excellent group leader. With Peacock and DeJohnette, he has fashioned a trio that is in itself an art form, an expression of the highest aspiration possible within the mainstream of contemporary small group jazz." Despite or because of the relaxed atmosphere, the group certainly lived up to its stellar reputation in this particular gig, ranging through the jazz repertoire with implicit references to their inspirations, such as Bill Evans and Chick Corea for Jarrett, Scott LaFaro and Paul Chambers for Peacock, and Elvin Jones for DeJohnette.

The concert started with a lovely and lively performance of "If I Were a Bell, I'd be Ringing," which Jarrett began with a long, slow solo intro that broke out into full swing with the trio. "Autumn Leaves" was executed with Jarrett's masterful interpretive skill on ballads, achieving great subtlety. A less-often played number, "Little Man You've Had a Busy Day," featured a masterful drum solo by DeJohnnette, which prefigured other brief and extended soloistic ventures by him throughout the evening. While in the previous concert, it was Jarrett who drove and guided the group, in this evening, DeJohnette seemed to be the propelling force. Peacock also soloed marvelously with his exquisite tone and nimble but accurate fingering. Next, the Pete LaRoca tune, "One for Majid" combined excitement and precision at a level that makes this group such a pleasure to hear. Coleman/McCarthy's "I'm Gonna Laugh You Out of My Life," a Nat King Cole favorite, was done in a dark, bluesy way and concluded the first part of the concert.

The intermission was followed by Sinatra's early-favored "I'm a Fool to Want You," done surprisingly with a hard-rock Latin rhythm reminiscent of Chick Corea. At this point, one palpably felt the group relaxing, developing that "nightclub jam" feeling, with much spontaneity and creative mobility. With Jarrett's heavily repetitive and tight chordal structure, the energetics of Herbie Hancock came into play as well. This was followed by another nuanced ballad, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," with fine extended solos by Jarrett and Peacock.

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