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Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden: Jasmine

Dan McClenaghan By

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In the world of jazz, it's often said that "live is better." The immediacy and spontaneity of a living, breathing, and hopefully rapt audience can lend electricity to a recording foray. For pianist Keith Jarrett, this may be truer than it is for most artists. His Standards Trio, with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette has been an almost exclusively "recorded live affair," other than the notable exceptions of his initial 1983 session with the group that resulted in three ECM albums, and 1991's Bye Bye Blackbird (ECM, 1991).

Jarrett is a famously intense artist, with a wish to "grab the audience by the throat and shake them into hearing what we [are] were doing," as he wrote in his liner notes to My Foolish Heart (ECM Records, 2008). This famed intensity has resulted in much-criticized diatribes directed at noisy audiences and ill-mannered photographers, but it's that on-edge personality seeking perfection that has resulted in one stunning live recording after another.

But there is something to be said for Jarrett's rare studio recordings, too. With that potential for a "throat shaking" (or at least a good ass-chewing) removed from the mix, studio dates such as Bye Bye Blackbird and The Melody at Night, with You (ECM, 1999), and now, especially on Jasmine—a duet recording with bassist Charlie Haden—the pianist plies the keyboard with a subdued-yet-joyful repose, playing with nothing to prove in an unhurried exploration of the melodic beauty of a set of tenderhearted love songs.

Jasmine is a ballad set of supreme intimacy and interaction, with an extraordinarily clean sound. Opening with "For All We Know," uncluttered and gorgeous, Jarrett and Haden slip inside the music with an easy and spontaneous reverence. Next up is the Peggy Lee/Victor Young gem, "Where Can I Go Without You," distilled to its perfect, timeless essence, unfolding with a slow elegance.

"No Moon at All" and, surprisingly, the ever-familiar "Body and Soul," push things up above a ballad pace, the former feeling angular and bouncy, the latter with a sunnier, more buoyant vibe than is normally found with this particular tune.

Haden solos often and well, with a subdued grace in front of Jarrett's unsurpassed and sublime comping. Joe Sample "One Day I'll Fly Away" has a deeply wistful mood, as does "I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life," giving the impression that the reality of the situation might closer to Cry you right out of my life.

Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye," a highlight if one must be picked, has never sounded lovelier, more inward, or sigh-and-cry-in-your-strong-drink sadder, with Haden's comp-accompanied solo sounding like the protagonist drifting off and disappearing into the night.

The closer, Kern and Hammerstein's "Don't Ever Leave Me," has a more optimistic feeling, a heartfelt plea to a lover who, for now at least, remains. Like the rest of the set, it is achingly beautiful, closing out a recording that couldn't possibly be improved upon.

Track Listing: For All We Know; Where Can I Go Without You; No Moon At All; One Day I'll Fly Away; Intro>I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out Of My Life; Body and Soul; Goodbye; Don't Ever Leave Me.

Personnel: Keith Jarrett: piano; Charlie Haden: double-bass.

Title: Jasmine | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: ECM Records


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