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Noah Haidu: Slowly: Song For Keith Jarrett

Dan McClenaghan BY

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Noah Haidu: Slowly: Song For Keith Jarrett
American poet Walt Whitman said it. Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan said it, too, on his Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia Records, 2020). They said: "I Contain Multitudes." Pianist Keith Jarrett also contains multitudes—though it has never been reported that he has said so. Those multitudes include early work with the groups of drummer Art Blakey, saxophonist Charles Lloyd and trumpeter Miles Davis, before he connected with ECM Records in 1972 with Facing You, a recording that set an early template for Jarrett's personal mountain of further improvised, mostly live solo piano recordings. There was also his early career leadership of the free jazz-skirting American and European quartets; and his dozens of Standards Trio recordings with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock that dipped deeply into the Great American Songbook in a way that will probably never be equalled.

For his part, pianist Noah Haidu has been called a rising star. In 2020, he recorded Doctone (Sunnyside Records), a profile-bolstering tribute to pianist Kenny Kirkland, who was best known as a pianist and tunesmith for Branford Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis. Haidu follows this up with another tribute, Slowly: Song For Keith Jarrett, taking on the tall order of an exploration of the artistry of one of jazz's brightest and most enduring stars.

At some point in the planning the question "Where do we start?" must have come up. Jarrett's discography and mastery of different styles is vast. Teaming up, for a trio effort, with veterans Buster Williams on bass and Billy Hart on drums, the answer that surfaced seems to have been: "Let us see if we can stir up Jarrett's way with a melody, his soul and humanity, his ability to bring the meaning of the lyrics into play, and to go deep, to get at the essence of the man's art."

A team effort from concept to execution, all three musicians of this superb piano trio contribute compositions, opening with the one-two caress of the gorgeous Williams- penned "Air Dancing," followed by Hart's' lighter-than-air "Duchess." Haidu's touch on both of these is exquisite, an adroit expression of the melodic threads, weaving them into magic. Composition-wise, Haidu offers up "Slowly," capturing Jarrett's truth-telling and restrained, wear-it-on-his-sleeve passion on a solo offering which, perhaps, nods to Jarrett's own improvised solo sets.

Jarrett's tender "Rainbow" is included, evolving into the Naidu-penned "Keith Jarrett," pushing Jarrett's compassion into full-blown joy, with the trio dynamic sounding as interactively empathic and innovative as you'll hear, past or present.

And no-one can nod to Keith Jarrett without addressing his Standards Trio. "What A Difference A Day Makes," "Georgia" and the closer, "But Beautiful" investigate this side of Jarrett's artistry with special reverence, not trying to mimic, but rather embracing the essence and expressiveness of The Man Who Contains Multitudes.

The decision to create this recording came about when Haidu learned of Jarrett's debilitating 2018 strokes that have, in all likelihood, ended the pianist's career. It is a masterfully realized, sumptuous and captivating seventy-six minutes of music. It is likely that others will offer tributes. No one will do it better.

Track Listing

Air Dancing; Duchess; What A Difference A Day Makes; Rainbow/Keith Jarrett; Georgia; Slowly; Lorca; But Beautiful.

Personnel

Noah Haidu: piano; Buster Williams: bass; Billy Hart: drums.

Album information

Title: Slowly: Song For Keith Jarrett | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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