Originally published at rec.music.bluenote
Well, after two years of doing without, we have Keith Jarrett back on the scene. I suppose I should preface my remarks by saying that I consider him to be the finest jazz musician living today.
His concert at the NJ Performing Arts Center on Saturday night was well attended and he was very well received. Although there were the typical idiot season ticket holders who had no idea who he was, the vast majority of the audience knew what a special event this return to performing was and they definitely showed their appreciation.
Jarrett (playing of course with his 15-year colleagues Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette) seems much more interested in the *jazz* part of the repertoire.
The first set seemed brief, somewhat tentative, almost cursory – well under 45 minutes. A set of tunes with not too much stretching. “Scrapple From The Apple”, “Autumn Leaves”, an exceptional “Old Folks” (one of my very favorite ballads), a couple more that I’m forgetting. But it was real straight ahead. Very little of the extended intro/outro/interlude stuff.
The second set, however, was a very different story. They began with Bud Powell’s “Bouncing With Bud” (which Peacock read, BTW) and by the second tune, “Doxy” (in G, for some reason), the band was swinging HARD and everyone knew it. A blues in G was also excellent. Then came a three-note vamp which to everyone’s surprise metamorphosed into “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. This was amazing. Again, I’m probably forgetting a couple of tunes.
It was obvious that they haven’t played too much recently because the ESP wasn’t happening like I’ve seen before. There were some sloppy entrances and you didn’t really get the sense that the whole thing was being orchestrated by a higher power (there were exceptions). But the overall music was great and just hearing Jarrett play again solidified my opinion of him. He was stretching the lines, digging deeper and deeper for the answers to the questions he set up. I kind of missed a real burner like the way they play “All The Things You Are”. However, the show was not over.
The encore was Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice” (which I’ve never heard them play before) and Jarrett took chorus after chorus after chorus on this one. Keith also thanked the audience for coming to see him closer to his home – hey, not a problem. It’s closer to mine as well, and it’s a beautiful hall. The sound was very good, with Peacock’s bass becoming properly balanced in the mix by the second set. I’ve always had trouble with hearing him (on solos), but this time I could really pick up what he was doing. Anyway….
The SECOND encore was “When I Fall In Love” by Victor Young, which is so beautiful and was handled exquisitely. Short, tasteful – a perfect ending to a very special evening.
Catch him if you are afforded the opportunity. I envy those who get to see him a little more warmed up.