“You have to know the songs,” Oscar Peterson used to admonish budding pianists. His lesson: Only through intimate knowledge of harmony, melody and lyrical nuance can you render the songwriter’s hand invisible.
For 30 years, Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette have been seizing ownership of standards, rendering them in a wide assortment of styles, depending on the mood of the moment. Since 1991, when the trio entered a studio to pay tribute to the recently departed Miles Davis, the band has recorded only live performances, and Somewhere—captured in 2009—is the first to be recorded since 2002.
Opening with an abstract, rhapsodic solo “Deep Space,” Somewhere feels like it might veer into free territory, as 2001’s Inside Out did, but after three minutes Peacock and DeJohnette establish a sauntering pulse, and by the 11-minute mark the trio is grooving hard on Davis’ “Solar,” with Jarrett executing some exhilarating runs. The “Somewhere”/“Everywhere” medley also covers broad territory, but in a different direction. From a gentle, sublime reading of the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim theme, Jarrett shifts into one of his long, gospel-tinged vamps—a slow-burning build filled with ecstatic releases, and a textbook illustration of DeJohnette’s creativity. As Jarrett’s other endeavors have receded and the trio has grown into one of the jazz world’s most sought-after concert acts, the unit has become a vehicle for the pianist’s various signatures. In fact, Somewhere serves up a cross-section of pianistic styles beyond Jarrett’s native devices, touching on stride for a highly percussive “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea” and bop for a steaming “Tonight.” — James Hale
Somewhere: Deep Space/Solar; Stars Fell On Alabama; Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea; Somewhere/Everywhere; Tonight; I Thought About You. (65:31)
Personnel: Keith Jarrett, piano; Gary Peacock, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums.