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Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden - Jasmine

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Artist: Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden

Album: Jasmine

Label: ECM

Review date: Jun. 14, 2010

In the liner notes to these 2007 recordings, Keith Jarrett speaks of music as “a surrender that overcomes us as players … and leads us on to the next pregnant second …” It’s difficult to imagine a better summation of the eight standards on offer. Repeated listening proves that each moment is alive with nuance, reflecting the unpredictable joy of a renewed partnership and of its music-making.

The two musicians had not recorded together for thirty years, since the disillusion of Jarrett’s American Quartet that also featured Dewey Redman and Paul Motian. In Jasmine‘s notes, Jarrett explains that he and Haden held these sessions following their participation in a documentary on Haden, though there were no initial plans to release them. Only minimal discussion proceeded the recordings, which were made at Jarrett’s home. The sound is intimate without being overly dry, never too bright and always full.

Despite a first-class production, this is not a disc that yields its secrets easily. As with much of Jarrett’s recent work, his formerly more extraverted energy is sublimated, allowing space for each gesture to emerge with new clarity. Unexpected developments, always integral to his interpretations of others’ work, are still present but are more subtly integrated into a given tune’s framework. A gradually contrapuntal texture completely transforms “No Moon at All,” paving the way for a quietly swinging Haden solo. On a smaller time scale, listen to the exquisite harmonic anticipations transitioning out of “Body and Soul”’s bridge, an absolute masterstroke.

These moments grabbed me when I had initially misinterpreted reflectivity as indifference. The music began to reveal itself to be rife with such detail on every level. Jarrett’s impeccable voicing and dynamic shadings on “One Day I’ll Fly Away”’s opening prefigure the tune’s translucent conclusion, Jarrett’s final octave nearly imperceptible but perfectly timed.

Charlie Haden is the ideal partner for such a venture. Each note he plays is a statement in itself, replete with the subtle pitch inflections only a master bassist can bring off with conviction. He guides the closing gestures of “Fly Away” with feeling and precision, and his playing on “Goodbye” embodies the richness of an organ’s sonority. He provides rock-solid support, pushing the beat or lagging behind just enough and at the right moments.

If an overall point of comparison is to be made, Bill Evans’ ubiquitous 1961 Village Vanguard sessions are similarly sultry but pithy as each note registers its importance. I can imagine that some long-time Jarrett fans will miss the lengthy journeys and extraversion of old. To them, I suggest that a few listens will make Jasmine’s many intricacies plain, rewarding the extra effort.

By Marc Medwin

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