Review by Brad Walseth
It is nearly impossible to discuss Keith Jarrett without referencing his boorish behavior at the Umbria Jazz Festival earlier this year, where the veteran performer berated the audience with curses before eventually walking off the stage when a concertgoer snapped an unwelcome photo. This action, the latest in a string of such unhappy incidences, led to his being banned from appearing at Umbria again in the future and resulted in a boatload of bad press for the pianist. His prickly personality is compounded by his perchant for "singing" along with his playing in a nasally, cartoonish voice. With such baggage, you might well wonder if the musician's musical output is worth these impediments. With the release of "My Foolish Heart," a double CD trio concert recorded at Montreux in 2001, Jarrett reminds everyone why he is considered one of the best and most-influential pianists of his generation.
Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock have played together for a quarter century. Many were surprised, given the climate of the times when they started, that the pianist of revolutionary recordings like the solo "Koln Concert" would lead a trio focused primarily on standards, but the trio has stuck to their guns and developed into the primary piano jazz trio of the modern era, and the logical successor to the classic Bill Evans combo. In commemoration of 25 years of playing together, Jarrett elected to release this particular concert as representing the trio's best, and it immediately enters into the region of "Classic" as one of the most engaging piano trio recordings.
When Jarrett remarks on the "swinging, energy and personal ecstasy" in the liner notes, he is right on the money because these three musicians are truly inspired and in-sync on this recording. Staring with an energetic take on Miles' "Four," the great songs just keep coming: the title track, Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," "What's New," "The Song is You," Monk's "Straight No Chaser," Gerry Mulligan's "Five Brothers," "Green Dolphin Street," "Only the Lonely" and a stellar take on the Jules Styne/Sammy Cahn weeper "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry." Throughout, the band plays wonderfully together, with intelligent and satisfying contributions by all. Peacock's solos are models of economy and grace, while DeJohnette is creative and propulsive. Meanwhile, Jarrett's piano work soars in layers of sounds absorbed from the entire stylistic history of jazz and merged into his own personal style.
You've heard these tunes before many times, but never like this. The closest comparison is probably the beloved Bill Evans trio, but even they did not play together as long as these three have. The renditions are quality and highly satisfying.
Perhaps the most intriguing element of this recording is the inclusion midway of three delightful tunes from the ragtime and stride era: Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose," and Rogers and Hart's "You Took Advantage of Me" offer a rare and welcome twist, and almost makes one wonder what this band could do with an entire album of such material.