Pianist Keith Jarrett's career practically invites criticism or, at the very least, intense comment. His outspokenness, his utter seriousness of intent and the resulting love-hate relationship with the audience, even his vocalisms, evoke strong responses, both pro and con, from listeners.
As the years have gone by, expectations have continued to rise, almost to the point that no matter what he does, Jarrett will fail in someone's eyes, and My Foolish Heart
is no exception. However, the only issue that really matters is this: does he and, by extension, the trio, communicate with and connect to the listener?
ECM has released this double-CD live recording from the 2001 Montreux Jazz Festival as a sort of now-to-then comparison to the upcoming release Setting The Standards: New York Sessions 1983
, which will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of this trio in 2008. Any Jarrett release is an event and, when combined with Jarrett's liner notes which talk about how special this performance was, practically promises a revelatory listening experience.
Revelation is, however, a very personal thing. Since this music consists of well-known standards the magic, if it is to be found, will not be in new sounds, but in the details of the performance for those who can, or desire to, hear them.
The best jazz is the music of spontaneous, unexpected creation. It requires dynamic energy and concentration plus the seeming contradictory ability to let go, forgetting all the technique and theory and just playing. In this case, what is to be played starts with the tunes themselves, with melody. A standard is labeled as such because its construction has achieved the delicate balance between the melodic phrasing and harmony that creates something unique, and being immediately identifiable and memorable.
To treat such a creation as mere changes is to violate its sanctity, and true improvisation will maintain contact, however tenuous, with the source of the inspiration. In this respect, Jarrett is masterful and there is nary a moment on any track when it is not obvious which tune is being played. The changes are respected, but so are the melody and emotional essence of the tune, with Jarrett using the musical language of conventional bebop jazz.
Bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, acknowledged masters in their own right, obviously know Jarrett and each other extremely well. Any given performance can vary, but this one does seem to find this rhythm section in top form. DeJohnette's famous energy is controlled but white hot while Peacock, whose solos are short but meaningful, adds a delightful bounce and verve.
The trio is playing as one and this is the joy of the performance. The surprise comes with the three stride tunes, "Ain't Misbehavin,'" "Honeysuckle Rose" and "You Took Advantage Of Me," and if anyone was waiting for a reason to gush about this performance, it is here.
Place it where you will in Jarrett's discography, My Foolish Heart
is true jazz artistry.