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Monday, November 14, 2005

KEITH JARRETT Standards, Vol. 2

ECM 1289 (1985)

Put three of the world's best jazz musicians in a room together and ask them to play their favourite songs and you can be reasonably sure you'll get some fine jazz music. If those three musicians just happen to be pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock, and drummer Jack DeJohnette, it's guaranteed. Have those musicians play together for over twenty years, exploring the American jazz songbook and developing a telepathy that allows them to play almost as one musician, and you have the Standards Trio, whom many have called the best piano trio working today, maybe even the best ever.

In 1983, Jarrett called Peacock and DeJohnette and asked them if they'd be interested in recording an album of jazz standards. They went into the studio with no rehearsal, just a list of songs that Jarrett had compiled. They would simply pick a tune, roll tape, and play it. The result was two volumes of Standards, a pair of albums that showcased the affinities of the trio for improvisation, the American song form, and each other.

Standards, Vol. 2 is an excellent snapshot of the group in its genesis. Listening to it today and comparing it with the group's later (mostly live) albums, it's apparent that the trio hadn't yet achieved the symbiotic "mind-meld" that makes their concerts into fascinating displays of musical empathy. There are no great revelations in these renditions, but there is still a sense of familiarity in the interplay between the musicians. Check out the soft, clackety percussion beneath Peacock's solo on "So Tender", which is gradually joined by Jarrett's piano and then repeated in the fade. Or "Moon and Sand", during which all three act as soloists yet maintain the momentum of the song. It's fitting that, even though the album was released under Jarrett's name, the names of the three musicians are printed in equal size on the cover, a practice that continues to this day. On their recordings and in their concerts, every member of the Standards Trio acts as a leader and an accompanist, often at the same time.

The group continues to record and tour extensively. Live, the group plays without a set list; one member will start a tune and the others will fall in behind. It's that off-the-cuff, just-friends-jamming feel that continue to make the Standards Trio's music special and enjoyable.


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