This is, amazingly enough, Jarrett's first solo recording of standards, and one of his very few non-through-improvised solo outings. I predict that the jazz press (especially the anti-Jarrett contingent) will misinterpret it as an attempt to "play down" and capture some of the smooth-jazz audience, since many of the selections feature very little of the full-fledged improvisation for which Jarrett is known. I believe that Jarrett is using Bill Evans as a model here, the Evans of such extended melodic explorations as the 1963 solo "Danny Boy" and the famous 14-minute version of "People." (Tellingly, the disc's opening selection is a version of "I Loves You, Porgy," one of Evans' most effective improvisatory vehicles.) It must have been "Danny Boy" that inspired Jarrett to add two folk tunes, "My Wild Irish Rose" and "Shenandoah," to the mix, and the latter in particular is an unqualified masterpiece. Jarrett's use of a harmonic displacement that is later resolved by his return to the original chord displays not only his musical ingenuity but also the depths of his musical sensitivity. Best of all, it is the type of ingenuity that does not call attention to itself but allows the listener to discover it on his own-another admirable quality Jarrett has learned well from Evans.
(Incidentally, I would like to alert fans of Jarrett and of classical music in general to his superb new collection of Mozart piano concertos, also on ECM. Jarrett is becoming to Mozart what Glenn Gould was to Bach.)