Recorded in July of '01, a full year before the group's last release, '03's Up For It
, The Out-of-Towners
finds pianist Keith Jarrett and his long-standing Standards Trio in a more insistent mood in Munich, where Still Live
, still arguably one of the trio's finest hours, was recorded back in '86. Prior to Up For It
, Jarrett and the trio had released two albums of free music. While not a complete show, The Out-of-Towners
still comes closest to capturing a complete concert experience by providing free playing along with standards, and even a solo piano piece, harkening to a much-anticipated solo piano recording to be released in '05.
A more pristine recording than Up for It
, the new album finds the trio further mining the standards book, this time with the up-tempo "I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me" and Cole Porter's "I Love You," along with the more medium-tempo swing of Gerry Mulligan's "Five Brothers" and the gorgeous ballad, "You've Changed." The most revealing trio piece, however, is the free-style title track, which finds them exploring the blues from the outside-in, much as they did on '01's Inside Out
. But whereas the blues figured prominently on all of Inside Out
's pieces but never actually resolved, "The Out-of-Towners" ultimately finds its way into a traditional blues form, albeit a slightly skewed one. One of the trio's greatest strengths is its ability to imply time, with each member providing a piece of it but never explicitly playing it, and "The Out-of-Towners" may be their best recorded example.
The encore, a tranquil yet heartfelt rendition of "It's All In The Game," places Jarrett in a solo context for the first time since '99's The Melody at Night, With You
and in a live solo setting for the first time since the '95 recording La Scala
. It reflects, more than anything else, the changes Jarrett has gone through since his bout with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the latter half of the '90s. While as in the moment as the best of his solo recordings, it's also more restrained, remaining perhaps truer to the essence of the piece than Jarrett was wont to staying in earlier solo concerts. It certainly bodes well for next year's solo recording.
Jarrett's trio has become one of the primary benchmarks for piano trio interplay, and it proves that, as Jarrett has said, "it's not the material, it's what you bring to the material." While some have bemoaned the fact that Jarrett appears to have left composition behind, the reality is that with an intuitive interaction that can only come from having played together for over twenty years, Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette raise the art of interpretation to a level that defies easy categorization. While they may, for the most part, choose to work existing standards, their playing is so fresh, so vital, that they make each piece sound like a new composition each time they play it.