Jarrett's Standards trio get back to re-interpreting the Great American Songbook...
Ian Latham 2002
After several years of silence due to a chronic fatigue syndrome, Keith Jarrett released The Melody At Night, With You in 1999. This was a solo piano album of introspective ballad playing that almost seemed to owe more to Bill Evans' style that to his own. Fine though it was, one couldn't help wondering whether we had perhaps seen the last of Jarrett's high energy flights of euphoria that had made him so famous. As if we haven't already seen plenty of evidence to prove that my pessimistic doubts were unfounded, Up For It clearly demonstrates that Keith Jarrett sounds as good today as he ever has.
The Standards Trio once again show themselves to be one of the very finest jazz trios on the scene. Jarrett's developed the art of bebop piano playing to such an advanced level that he's in a class of his own. He really is one the most melodic of all improvisers.
Gary Peacock's bass playing is impeccable and Jack DeJohnette's drumming is utterly sophisticated and intelligent. Their rapport is telepathic as ever, phrasing around each other to perfection. This album, which marks the trio's 20th anniversary, is a welcome reminder that long creative partnerships in jazz are an important source of some of the most remarkable music.
Particular highlights include Charlie Parker's "Scrapple From The Apple". The first thing that hits you on this track is DeJohnette's drumming. He plays around with the placing of the ride cymbal pattern, creating ridiculous levels of tension that evaporate at exactly the right moments. Jarrett's solo builds to the point where he lays phrase after phrase of ridiculous cascading runs. No musician expresses ecstasy as directly as Jarrett.
Also, look out for the extended version of "Autumn Leaves" that completely moves away from the harmony and form of the original and develops into a bluesy, riff based improvisation. We love it when he pulls that one out of the bag.
To be ruthless about this album, although it is exceptionally played, actually there isn't anything on this session that that is truly new. Call to mind the philosophy of Jarrett's old bandleader Miles Davis, who stubbornly refused to cover the same musical territory twice. Miles realised that however great something was, eventually it would become stale through familiarity and that the only answer was to reinvent constantly. It's a powerful mantra that we can apply to any area of our own lives as we seek to reach once again for the heights of joy that we might think can never be attained again.
To be fair, Miles was a genius and it is unrealistic to expect that sort of creative energy from anybody. But with Jarrett, we clearly are dealing with a genius too, so it may not be unreasonable to be looking for him to take us to another level. Let's hope Jarrett is up for it too.