The January 2009 release of the famed Jarrett, Peacock, DeJohnette trio derives from the musicians' 2001 tour and is the fourth from that productive year. The trio celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008 and have proven the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," or something like that. From beginning to end, there's not a dull moment. The program consists of bebop compositions and ballads from the standards' repertoire. The first eight tracks were recorded at Tokyo's Metropolitan Hall, and the last track, "Stella by Starlight," according to the press release, was recorded as a soundcheck, without an audience present, a week earlier.
All the bebop pieces are wonderfully arranged and treated with great polish and execution. Track one, Horace Silver's "Strollin'," is quite a romp. It blasts off this album with smooth, intricate piano playing by Keith Jarrett, followed by Gary Peacock on double bass with a solo that is so lyrical and resonant. Drummer Jack DeJohnette plays intricately, too, while keeping perfect order. Impeccable playing by all. The other pieces are distinctive as well. "Shaw'nuff" is very "hip," like its composers, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. This is very nice but played fast, and one on which DeJohnette gets lots of play and takes advantage of it. Very bebop and very cool. Dexter Gordon is closely connected to "You've Changed," and here this lovely ballad features Jarrett and Peacock either trading solos or entwined in a duet. "Scrapple from the Apple" is a grand interpretation of the Charlie Parker composition, played with much gusto. The cheerfulness is sustained throughout the program with such upbeat music. One can easily discern that this trio has played for a long time together. They are so simpatico.
Mixed in with the bebop pieces are a show tune and some ballads. The cheerfulness of the music almost drove it over a precipice with "You Took Advantage of Me." Ragtime music can only be taken by some jazz fans in very small doses, a brief interlude in a film, perhaps. In this interpretation of the show tune, it began with no particular shape (other than bouncy piano music) and no surprises. The double bass made an impression. But then around the middle, it turns into a swinging little improvisation, leaving the lyrics far behind. In the end, it proves to have some structure because it returns to the little ragtime music in the final bars. The ballads, though, are strictly noteworthy.
"Yesterdays" is a number well suited for Jarrett to get real romantic. The song is played at a slow pace and is carried forth on strings of notes on the one hand and a Basie minimalism on the other. The double bass goes deep and sad and makes the enterprise a blues. "A Sleepin' Bee" starts off with a slow adherence to the lyrics and then Jarrett, after a swinging solo by Peacock, really opens it up and rides it nicely home. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" is played hauntingly and beautifully by Jarrett. The piano and bass duets display the strength of the trio's style. "Stella by Starlight" is taken at a swift pace and turns into a playful canter of a song. Jarrett makes the piano sparkle, like a precious gem.
One can spend a lot of time with this music.