Who: Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette
Where: UCLA Royce Hall
Better than...any other piano trio on the planet.
Last night the trio of pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock, and drummer Jack DeJohnette gave one of their few North American live appearances of 2011. The rarity of the performance, combined with the reputation of the trio, meant Royce Hall was sold out well in advance.
Jarrett and DeJohnette's relationship dates back to the mid-1960's, when DeJohnette brought Jarrett to the attention of saxophonist Charles Lloyd. The group's 1966 recording Forest Flower was popular enough with the era's burgeoning youth movement that Bill Graham brought the band to the Fillmore West in San Francisco. When Lloyd's group broke up in 1968, DeJohnette and Jarrett moved to Miles Davis's band, and they stuck around for the years immediately following the release of Davis' groundbreaking Bitches Brew.
Jarrett began recording solo piano for the German ECM record label in 1971. Producer Manfred Eicher gave Jarrett near-complete control of the musical content of the recordings, which Jarrett thrived on. In 1977, Eicher recorded bassist Gary Peacock with DeJohnette and Jarrett as the backing players, and later suggested that Jarrett team again with DeJohnette and Peacock for a recording under Jarrett's leadership. That trio's first output, Standards Vol. 1 set in motion a group that has gone on to 19 albums and continuous sold-out appearances worldwide for nearly three decades. ECM is scheduled to release a new solo recording from Jarrett, Rio, on November 8th.
Last night the trio began with the jazz standard "On Green Dolphin Street." Jarrett opened with the first solo, followed by Peacock, and then a traded section of brief solos between Jarrett and DeJohnette. The second selection was a playful version of Duke Ellington's "Things Ain't What They Used To Be," which brought on the evening's first sustained applause. Next was another standard, "You Don't Know What Love Is", featuring Jarrett's piano in opening interplay with DeJohnette's cross sticking against his drumkit's rims, eventually concluding with a Middle-Eastern influenced improvisation between all three members. A somewhat more obscure tune, "Answer Me My Love," followed, which was made popular by Nat King Cole. It opened with Jarrett combining with DeJohnette's deft touch of mallets to cymbals. The bluesy final number of the first set featured the evening's longest solo from Peacock.
The second set began with "Bye Bye Blackbird," which included alternating trades between Jarrett and DeJohnette that ended with the drummer lightly playing only his kick drum. Next was "My Funny Valentine," which opened with Jarrett's deft solo piano before leading into Peacock's bass and DeJohnette on mallets, before the latter switched to the gentlest of brushes. "Valentine" is a song that's played so often that many renditions have become stale, but Jarrett's closing solo piano made it one the highlights of the night. An uptempo version of "Autumn Leaves" was next, which may have provided the evening's best example of the trio's effortless interplay and uncanny dymanics control, with the group rising and falling in unison. "When I Fall In Love" ended the second set, leading to an extended standing ovation.
The trio returned to offer a gospel-tinged "God Bless The Child", which was followed by a second standing ovation. The evening concluded with a second encore in "I Thought About You", fittingly ending with a final gentle solo from Jarrett. As in nearly everything else presented from the stage, unison was the watchword for the night, with the group bowing as one for a final time.
Personal Bias: The trio's ability to probe personal emotions, such as that of a 1986 video performance of the song "Blame It On My Youth" remains likely to evoke tears.
The Crowd: Hushed and respectful, the audience prompted none of Jarrett's well-publicized reactions or program stoppages for coughing or other disturbances. Multiple standing ovations brought forth several curtain calls and two encores.
Random Notebook Dump: L.A. based jazz luminaries were out in force for the evening, including Hubert Laws, Tierney Sutton, John Beasley, Ruslan Sirota, Don Heckman, and Denise Donatelli, who also hails from Jarrett's hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Set lists below.
On Green Dolphin Street
Things Ain't What They Used To Be
You Don't Know What Love Is
Answer Me My Love
Bye Bye Blackbird
My Funny Valentine
When I Fall In Love
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God Bless The Child
I Thought About You