[JPL] A Group That Lives for Understatement

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 25 15:11:49 EDT 2007

June 23, 2007
Music Review | Keith Jarrett Trio
A Group That Lives for Understatement 
The huge catalog of jazz standards is a cozy, private
place for the Keith Jarrett Trio, which returned to
Carnegie Hall on Thursday night as part of the JVC
Jazz Festival. Mr. Jarrett on piano, Gary Peacock on
bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums have been playing
together for 24 years, Mr. Jarrett proudly announced
onstage. In the concert’s only overstated moment, he
added, “Every time we play is a historical event for
me, and it should be for you, too.”

Otherwise, this trio lives for understatement.
Together the three musicians have evolved an approach
so delicate that it verges on stealth. Mr. Peacock and
Mr. DeJohnette provide a hushed, tiptoeing
counterpoint to Mr. Jarrett’s long, singing piano
phrases, keeping the music translucent. When Mr.
Jarrett states a melody as a series of chords, each
note sounds precious and irreplaceable, and when he
takes off on one of his graceful linear
improvisations, he constantly varies speed and
inflection — ambling, darting, sprinting, sighing — in
ways he might have learned from Ornette Coleman and
Paul Bley. 

The whole trio plays softly, whether in a ballad or a
lightly swinging blues, so that every crescendo
becomes an event. Tempo is never rigid; the trio
breathes together, lingering or lilting.

In their long careers, all three musicians have
visited the edges of free jazz, but this trio prizes
tonality and the way a single note can recast a chord.
Their set included songs as familiar as “Someday My
Prince Will Come” and as rarely unearthed as Dave
Brubeck’s “It’s a Raggy Waltz.” 

Mr. Jarrett started “Yesterdays” with a piano solo of
chromatically mutating chords, as if he were pondering
the possibilities the song held. When he unveiled the
melody, Mr. DeJohnette announced its appearance with
gusts of whooshing cymbals played with mallets. 

The trio is also fond of ostinatos, hovering over a
chord or two and letting each musician’s part rise out
of it in turn: Mr. Jarrett’s harmonic permutations,
Mr. Peacock’s springy and teasingly varied bass riffs
and Mr. DeJohnette’s carefully orchestrated drums and

“I’m a Fool to Want You,” a ballad that Billie Holiday
sang, arose like a distant mirage out of an intricate
modal Afro-Latin vamp, its melody not appearing — and
its absence not even noticed — until five minutes in.
Eventually the melody was left behind again as the
vamp faded out, then back in, then out, with an almost
hypnotic suspense. 

Another Holiday song, “God Bless the Child,” grew out
of a rolling, gospel-like riff, topped with the melody
in widely splayed chords and later terse but rounded
blues phrases, over a rolling funk beat from Mr.
DeJohnette. Even at its heartiest, the music held the
audience hushed, as if no one wanted to miss a single
precious detail. 

The JVC New York Jazz Festival continues through June
30 at various locations. Full schedule and other
information: festivalproductions.net.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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