Seven jazz standards, with an original tacked on as appendix. That's standard fare for the Keith Jarrett Trio, which has made its mark over the last two decades as a leading interpreter of the jazz canon. In the interval since its inception in 1983, the trio has pumped out 14 records of uniformly high quality, relying on the combined talents of three seasoned veterans: pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock, and drummer Jack DeJohnette.
So this is the fifteenth. What to say? It's live. It's outstanding. It's a lot like the others.
A note of explanation. Music critics tend to fall victim to a common disease, with the unfortunate misconception that their readers suffer from the same. When you've heard every record a group has ever releasedand, alas, that is the case hereyou tend to grow cynical. If a new recording doesn't stand out dramatically from the others, it loses its luster. But for someone who isn't quite so jaded, that same disc can be a revelation, a discovery, a road to enchantment. That is also the case here.
The seven standards on Up For It span about ten minutes on average. That space allows the group to expand at length in group and individual improvisation. The place where the trio works its best magic is where all three players interlock in ever-shifting roles. The pianist has a predilection for punchy melodies mixed with rippling runs, keeping a constant eye on the idea of song. (And yes, he "sings" here in his own unique way, fortunately low in the mix.)
And, while on that subject, the sound is outstanding for an outdoor live performance in the rain.
Bassist Gary Peacock shines on Oliver Nelson's "Butch & Butch," whose rapid tempo demands quick responses and places a premium on deliberation. He punches in and out of walking bass lines, regularly rising to the high end to interlock with Jarrett in unpredictable ways. That's the essence of Peacock's contribution, along with a particular sense of rhythm which has an outward regularity but exerts a constant elastic swinging tug.
The trio charges right into Charlie Parker's "Scrapple from the Apple," with its stop- and-start melody, nodding overtly to the pointed energy that defined bebop. As time progresses, they continue to jump forward with a youthful vigor. The full trio goes intercontinental with an extended improvisation around the changes before bass and drum solos. On the latter, Jack DeJohnette's muscular yet articulate phrasing stands in isolation, though he swings like mad throughout the entire recording. The most dramatic feature of Up For It is DeJohnette's playing, which sets it apart from the rest and rewards attention. Especially on the up-tempo numbersabout halfhe just hits it.
Up For It reveals a barely palpable gap between expectation and reality. That's a good sign. The level of interaction and sheer celebration on this record make it a crisp reminder that standards can be fresh forever.
Note: On January 28th, Keith Jarrett won Sweden's prestigious Polar Music Prize, an honor previously bestowed on musicians ranging from Bob Dylan to Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Visit ECM Records and Keith Jarrett on the web.
Personnel: Keith Jarrett: piano; Gary Peacock: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.