Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Enduring Simplicity: Keith Jarrett's Jasmine

Recorded in March 2007, with Charlie Haden on acoustic bass, pianist Keith Jarrett captured the enduring quality of music in a timely way. In spite of the delay from ECM, this is an album of simplicity and there’s beauty in that simplicity. Jasmine as Jarrett writes in the liner notes, “is a night blooming flower with a beautiful fragrance.” The real reason for the delay, however, was the number of songs Jarrett and Haden had recorded and their trying to decide what to do with them.

The process of weeding through the music was a challenge because they didn’t want to release anything “over-played”: again beauty in simplicity. I don’t know who first said it, but the most difficult thing to create is something simple, something unpretentious and so it is with this music. “Where Can I Go Without You,” by Victor Young and originally sung by Peggy Lee is an exquisite example of simplicity. The playing also has nuance since the musicians articulate the lyrics without vocalizing them. But just when you thought the album would slumber under the weight of that sad tune, the duo comes back with an up tempo version of “No Moon At All,” a Redd Evans/David Mann once sung by the likes of Julie London, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. But it isn’t all standards from a bygone era. Jarrett and Haden provide a sweet version of Joe Sample’s tune called, “One Day I’ll Fly Away,” recorded by Sample with Lalah Hathaway in 1999. Again, the R&B flavoured ballad is slowed to a more introspective tempo under the hands of Jarrett and Haden whose sensitive touch to their respective instruments creates the delicate mood of the piece; it’s textured in a detailed way like fine silk lace.

I particularly like Jarrett’s improvised intro to Cy Coleman’s number “I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life,” its free spirit is pure in its musical intent and the pianist’s phrasing. Not surprisingly, this song was once recorded by another great piano-player, Nat King Cole. One of the saddest tracks ever written was “Goodbye” by Gordon Jenkins. It was made famous by Benny Goodman back in the 30s as his signature song. On this recording though, Jarrett and Haden bring out the hopefulness of the song’s lament - and it's a performance of the first order. Keith Jarrett turned 65 on May 15th. Charlie Haden will be 73 in August. This album best reflects their experience, musicality and endurance. It’s a beautiful record.

-- John Corcelli is a musician, actor, broadcaster and theatre director.

No comments:

Post a Comment