Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Swiss movement: Jarrett-Peacock-DeJohnette hang loose in Lucerne

Working through second thoughts,  the renowned "standards" trio of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette has allowed ECM to release "Somewhere," the essence of a concert presented in Lucerne, Switzerland, in July 2009.

Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock
Recently the pianist explained the perfectionist tendencies behind this costive scheduling to an NPR interviewer. Fans will be pleased to hear the result, even if the particular misgivings of bassist Peacock seem justified: His instrument's sound is a bit constipated; what he plays has a stopped-up quality  — where's the resonance, the projection? The bass's accompaniment patterns are sometimes buried under even sotto voce piano and drums, especially in the ruminative Jarrett original "Everywhere," which is tacked on to a plaintive account of Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere."

That's one of the hourlong set's two pieces from "West Side Story," the other being a blithe run-through of "Tonight,"  capped by a rather perfunctory ending. The performance is the closest this usually imaginative threesome comes to a conventional piano-trio rendition, though DeJohnette's accented flecks of snare drum are something special.

The response of the crowd to "Everywhere" is ecstatic, but this represents the kind of Jarrett cud-chewing that tends to weary me. Clearly, though, a celebrated musician has a responsibility to deliver on his brand, and Jarrett does so here, urged along by DeJohnette at his most subtle and the nearly inaudible support of Peacock.

More exciting an example of the pianist's original flights are the out-of-tempo flourishes that open the disc under the  title "Deep Space,"  suggesting the mystery of the cosmos. This serves as an apt introduction to Miles Davis' "Solar," with Peacock leading the way. Whatever reservations I have about the bass sound, Peacock is in good form in his solos, the best example of which occurs in the set closer, "I Thought About You."

A hallmark of a Jarrett interpretation of a standard (besides his haphazard moaning and other vocal tics) is a clear love of melody, which he never abandons for the sake of improvising solely on chord changes. When the original tune is set aside, he creates new melodies in the same spirit. I admire the way he sticks to the tune even on the bridge, often the first part of a standard that jazzmen jettison.

 He's also no fan of introductions; tunes are presented off the launching pad in all their integrity, as in "Stars Fell on Alabama," "Somewhere" and "I Thought About You." Sure, he's no literalist about this; he imports a modified-Monk pointillism as "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" opens unaccompanied.

The last-named song is the disc's most satisfying performance. Jarrett is keenly on message, and sets up a lovely introduction to  Peacock's solo. A good-time groove is maintained, buoyed by generous exchanges with the drummer near the end.

Standards never grow stale in any competent jazz musician's book, and this trio remains one of the prime upholders and refreshers of their legacy.

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