The program notes to the Keith Jarrett trio at Boston Symphony Hall on Sunday, October 26, read more like an encyclopedia entry than a biography. From 1980-1992, Jack DeJohnette was voted “Best Drummer” in the DownBeat Readers Poll Awards for an unprecedented 13 years. In 1989 Keith Jarrett was given the highest honor the French nation can bestow upon an artist when he was elected an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. Never mind how many DownBeat awards he has received (easily over a dozen), in 2003 the King of Sweden awarded Jarrett the Polar Music Prize. As a trio, DeJohnette, Jarrett, and bassist Gary Peacock have been nominated for five Grammies, the Gold Disc Award in 2000 and 2003 from Japan’s Swing Journal, and the Choc des Chocs Award (France’s Jazzman Magazine) from 2000-2003.
The recognition is due to the fact that the players in this trio (currently on their 25th Anniversary tour) have altered the history of jazz by influencing many generations to come. Sunday night it was Jarrett’s masterful melodic conception, Peacock’s ability to marry rhythm and harmony, and DeJohnette’s intrepid and linear sense of time that evoked 3 encores. Yes, the audience demanded the players back onstage for a 4th encore. Yes, Jarrett yelled at fans not respecting his policy on pictures. Yes, Jarrett walked off abruptly and probably alienated himself from first time concertgoers. The fact remains however, that this highly decorated trio is one of the most important groups in jazz.
Speaking directly to the audience, Jarrett began the concert Sunday evening by sincerely thanking them for their support over the years. At one point he even told a funny story about the longevity of their set list. Here he made reference to a tune he had been meaning to call for the past 25 years. Addressing the audience again he remarked, “Its just a song, right? Not really.” With this intense focus to each song, the trio allows the music to shape itself into a new story every time. This is why they have continued to play standards for over a quarter century. The concert began with “On Green Dolphin Street.” Jarrett’s piano introduction bared little resemblance to the evocative introduction on the 1994 ECM, “At The Blue Note: The Complete Recordings” version. This version felt tame by comparison.
Ballads in particular showcase the trio’s sensitivity. “When I Fall In Love ” is a favorite that appeared Sunday night as the first in a series of 3 encores. It was recorded on the 1999 ECM live album, “Whisper Not,” and the opening notes were met with enthusiastic applause. For the 3rd and ultimately final encore, a burning rendition of “Straight No Chaser” afforded DeJonette a long solo opportunity where he proved once again how melodic the drums can be.
In 2005 the British producer/director Mike Dibb released Keith Jarrett: The Art of Improvisation. The DVD offers a candid glimpse into Jarrett’s reclusive world. There is also an extended interview with DeJohnette and Peacock where they offer insight to the music making process. Says DeJonette, “What we do as a trio is we have a canvas in front of us and you know intuitively…this goes in. The thought process and the intuitive process all happen in that one action.” Expanding on this concept Peacock remarks, “First the music enters us…the music’s telling us what to play.” Referring to their first encounter as a trio Jarrett says, “What struck me was the youthfulness of the playing, and we’re not that young! What I was hearing in the playing was this bypassing that whole truth.” Sunday night the players could be seen smiling and laughing as though this was their first encounter together.
Says Jarrett, “Music is a result of a process the musician’s going through, especially if he’s creating it on the spot.” For the Keith Jarrett trio it is the infinite combination of playing experience, emotion, and life that form the kindling to their unique improvisational flare and every performance reveals yet another truth to the process.
Check out the trio playing "My Funny Valentine," recorded live in Tokyo on March 30, 1996