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Live Reviews

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

By Published: September 29, 2008
Then "something happened," the sort of thing that makes a concert unforgettable. The group proceeded into the musical stratosphere with a stunning rendition of Monk's "Straight No Chaser." Jarrett elaborated on Monk's off-center syncopation and twists of phrasing with sophisticated rhythms and dissonances drawn from Stravinsky and other modern influences. It was pure Jarrett, yet came across like a transformation of Stravinksy's "Petrouchka." Then DeJohnette did a solo that was totally out on a limb and even took the group's leader by surprise. Jarrett personally applauded the drummer afterward, and said, "I've been working with you for 25 years, and never heard that before!!" DeJohnette went a step beyond Elvin Jones' standard of transforming the drums into a unified instrument, taking full advantage of the various timbres of cymbals, drums, and accessories. In this memorable solo, DeJohnette achieved a new level of musicality for a jazz drummer. It was almost as if he were singing with the drums. He himself appeared high on it, and the audience was thrilled. This was the kind of creative experience that appears to be given to the musician by a source well beyond his conscious ego. The set concluded with John Lewis' "Django."

The audience response insisted that the group come out for encore after encore, and they obliged with comfortable renditions of "Some Day My Prince Will Come," "When I Fall in Love," and Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child," concluding with a lively C minor jam.

An added feature of any Keith Jarrett concert is "Jarrett-watching." Conversations invariably turn to his behavior and words on stage. I have wondered at times whether Jarrett is a perfectionist who can't help himself, or whether he's found a canny way to garner attention. In this particular concert, he appeared to be in a more light-hearted mood than usual, and he refrained from the critical remarks that are his trademark. Paradoxically, however, he had the piano placed in the way that Miles Davis sometimes performed, with his back to the audience, although in Jarrett's instance it may have been because he wanted the sounding board to project towards Peacock and DeJohnette. In some of his remarks, he implied that he is intent on reaching and pleasing his audience, in contrast to his usual iconoclastic persona. In his self-authored liner notes for My Foolish Heart (ECM, 2007), he also intimated a strong interest in winning over the audience. Well, on this occasion he and his group certainly achieved that objective.

Personnel: Keith Jarrett: piano; Gary Peacock: double-bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.

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