This is pianist Jarrett’s famous “standards” trio, with Gary Peacock, bass and Jack DeJohnette, drums, recorded live in 2000 and, for the most part, eschewing golden-age pop songs for long, free-form improvisations. This might seem like a daunting prospect in other hands, but Jarrett, typically, makes it into easy and even pleasant listening. The 22-minute-plus opener, “From the Body,” offers all the elements of the threesome’s neo-avant-garde concept. Jarrett plays a simple little figure to establish a thematic base and suggest rhythmic possibilities; the first improvised section is in his patented gospelly blues mode, the second more reminiscent of straight-ahead jazz, the third is virtuoso-impressionistic and the fourth is all rising mist over a yearning ostinato. One can see why Jarrett is so popular — he’s a player of glittering surfaces and exhilarating moods, one whose exploratory passages give off the healthy sheen of a confident former prodigy. He’s the musical equivalent of a good read.
But if he is, in his way, as facile as Ahmad Jamal, he’s also as entertaining, and listening to him vamp uninhibitedly through a burbling romp such as “Riot” or play musical Twister with his teammates on “341 Free Fade” is great fun. Peacock plays his ass off throughout and DeJohnette uses the free format to essay varied and scurrying taps and rustles, alternately chasing and pushing the pianist. For the closer, they dip back into classic pop for a typically limpid rendition of “When I Fall in Love.” Moods for moderns, indeed.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.