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Keith Jarrett's Standards in Sweden I & II

By Mika Pohjola

Gary Peacock has had many great trio initiatives. One of the greatest is this trio with Keith Jarrett on piano and Jack DeJohnette on drums (another one is with Paul Bley and Paul Motian). It is remarkable that all three members of this trio are capable pianists, and Peacock additionally a drummer from his early years; however, Jarrett may be the strongest pianist. The trio is a late 20th century phenomenon in equally late bebop renditions of singable tunes from the American Songbook. Sometimes the bebop is substituted by nostalgia of 60s songwriters' grooves, or various forms of half-way swing and even 8ths. The groove barometer positions the results somewhere close to the Azores or perhaps the Faroes. The underlying genres - as naïvely described here - are of course a subconscious part of the natural existence of these icons, and if it weren't, these gentlemen would hardly admit it.

On this October 1989 recording, there is a sense of comfort, and no wonder, Jarrett has enjoyed a relatively comfortable economic existence since his recovery from deep debts in the early 80s. To illustrate this point clearly, I doubt he has visited Local 802 recently. In that sense his playing is honest and mates with his high-profiled gigs at reputable, historical symphonic and operatic locations in Europe and Japan. None of this is to say he would be less of an artist. No, he is an artist of the highest order, since he expresses his life and the world from his viewpoint in the form of music; the expression is just filled with comfort, luxury and a clear distance from what many other musicians experience and express. The sense of luxury culminates on long vamps, although there's quite little of that on these two Stockholm recordings. "My Man Is Gone Now" is the only attempt to what could have been a modal nightmare. But on his countless solo concerts, there's no shortage of the "neither minimalistic nor meditative vampness", with solid investments made on the fact of repetition, at times edging to simple continuation of time. Perhaps it is this sense of luxury that attracts the masses (as understood in jazz, meaning thousands not millions of people) toward him as an idol. Who would not want to live in clover, and those who can't may see Keith Jarrett at one of his concerts or at least buy his albums. Or something like that. He is occasionally placed in the opposite end of Wynton Marsalis in an imaginary jazz avenue, but I disagree with that kind of polarization. These two jazzmen both claim they own the golden cup of the blues. However, they both have collected more jazz-political power than most, and earned more money each compared to all the early 20th century musicians - who they love - ever earned combined. Luxury was far from those early noble men. The term "standards" also describes a lot, for Jarrett is...

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Keith Jarrett
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