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Extended Analysis

Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette: Setting Standards - New York Sessions

By Published: December 5, 2008

Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette

Setting Standards - New York Sessions

ECM Records


There are plenty of pianists in this world who are masters of their instruments, but no one plays the piano like Keith Jarrett. In a career that has been going forward and upward for 40 years, there are plenty of anniversaries for various bands and landmark albums—Jarrett has enjoyed one of the most fulfilling careers in jazz today. 2008 marks the 25th anniversary of the his Standards Trio, the band that reinvented the jazz piano trio with its deep lyricism and subtle layers of luminous and evasive harmonies, supported by DeJohnette's brilliant drumming. To mark this anniversary, ECM has reissued the group's first three recordings in one single box, Setting Standards - New York Sessions.

During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, most artists put the emphasis on originality and playing original material. These were decades when everyone seemed to be pushing the boundaries. It was a period of great creativity and artists who performed tunes from the standards repertoire were generally seen as outdated. On the other hand, Jarrett, whose creativity has never waned (not even when he was ill in the 1990s) and has always been consistently excellent, decided in the early 1980s to try his hand at those standards.

Since forming in 1983, Jarrett's trio with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock has staked a claim as the preeminent jazz group interpreting standards, their specialty being classic songs that have become cornerstones of jazz and pre-rock pop. Today, the trio is one of the longest-running small combos in jazz history.

Words are not enough to do justice to their playing, their background, and their history prior to this trio or ever since. In their hands, these standards become something else, a platform for stretching and showcasing their unique capabilities. The appeal of these recordings partially comes from the excellent choice of material, but lies much more in what the band does with it in particular.

Each member of the group plays with great freedom, so that each performance stands out while simultaneously communicating with and supporting each other. There is a hypnotic symbiosis between these people that has never faded throughout all these years of performing together. This is mostly evident during live shows where the trio can literally go anywhere the music takes them. During each performance, the trio takes a leap into the improvisational unknown, which they explore with authority and verve. This is not surprising, taking into account their rich background and their immense combined experience. Jarrett aside, each of them is a versatile pianist, which brings something unique to the table.

When the band recorded enough tracks for two albums, they went on to record Changes (ECM, 1983), a completely improvised affair. This set the foundation for their future existence from playing standards to improvised music on albums including Changeless (ECM, 1997) and Inside Out (ECM, 2000).

Whatever these three master musicians play turns into gold or becomes a classic. These days, the influence of the trio casts its large shadow over almost every young jazz trio striving for creativity. This three-CD set is a brilliant reissue. It is a classic piano jazz album which will never lose its freshness—not even for the next 25—or even 125—years.

Tracks: CD1 (Standards, Vol. 1): Meaning Of The Blues; All The Things You Are; It Never Entered My Mind; The Masquerade Is Over. CD2 ( Standards, Vol. 2): So Tender; Moon And Sand; In Love In Vain; Never Let Me Go; If I Should Lose You; I Fall In Love Too Easily. CD3 (Changes): Flying Part 1; Flying Part 2; Prism.

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

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