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Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden: Jasmine

Joe Alterman By

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Keith Jarrett, like Sonny Rollins, is quite hard to pin down. Like the iconic saxophonist, for many years now, the equally legendary pianist has been leaning towards the songs of his youth, and even earlier. Compared with their song choices of, say, twenty years ago, it would seem that these players have become more conservative over the years; that is, however, simply not true. Again, like Rollins, Jarrett's improvisations have evolved through the years, with an even greater searching and explorative quality. Quite uniquely, these master musicians use these older tunes as vehicles for their explorations; with these older songs as their guides, these artists continue to move themselves forward.

Jarrett's Jasmine, a duo outing with bassist Charlie Haden, is a wonderful—and simply beautiful—example. The session consists of mostly ballads. All beautiful melodies, the tunes themselves are timeless; the playing, very relaxed, yet deadly serious—extremely emotional, yet utterly focused.

Jarrett writes in the liner notes: "Call your wife or lover in late at night and sit down and listen. These are great love songs played by players who are trying, mostly, to keep that message intact." While many have dismissed these note as an excuse for selling out, the specific mindfulness with which Jarrett and Haden admit to playing only adds another layer of deep focus to the music.

The music speaks for itself; more than anything, it is the song itself that is made memorable by the duo's playing. At a time when recorded music almost always highlights the musician's ability, it is wonderfully refreshing to hear an album where the musicians' abilities are obvious, but are not the only focus. The focus of the album is the songs and melodies themselves, and the playing is serving the songs, rather than the other way around.

Jarrett's improvisations rarely ever go faster than 8th notes, but that yearning, explorative quality is still there—more than ever, almost. His tone, lines and melodies are searching—better described, perhaps, as yearning.

There have been many wonderful duo recordings over the years— Jimmy Rowles/Ray Brown, Hank Jones/Red Mitchell, the many Bill Evans duo sessions, and others from Charlie Haden. The quiet subtlety of such sessions has made each of them musical treasures, and Jasmine is sure to become a classic in the field of duo recordings.

There's something about it, however, that feels just a bit more special. For the casual music fan, a lover wanting to set a night's mood; for the serious musician, looking to find deep, new music; and for the music fan that says, "they just don't make albums like they used to," finally, they do. Jasmine encompasses all that music is about. For all those mentioned, this album is for you.

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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