February 2001 / By Ted Panken

Whisper Not


ECM 1724/25

No improviser brings emotion to the surface more tellingly than Keith Jarrett, and on The Melody At Night With You, his acclaimed 1999 solo recital, the master pianist, who has suffered in recent years from chronic fatigue syndrome, palpably conveyed the depths of spiritual angst and desolation that illness imparts. Whisper Not, recorded at the Palais de Congrés in Paris in July 1999, finds Jarrett in a considerably lighter mood.

Joined by bassist Gary Peacock and trapset master Jack DeJohnette, his intensely interactive working trio now entering its third decade, the pianist makes a Steinway dance buoyantly through 14 canonical tunes, conjuring free-as-the-wind melodies with effortless grace. The animating imperative here is the syntax of bebop, and Jarrett is particularly inspired on such classics of the idiom as “Hallucinations” (Bud Powell), “Groovin’ High” (Dizzy Gillespie) and “Conception” (George Shearing). He gets to the essence of Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge,” Duke Ellington’s “Prelude To A Kiss” and Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight”; and gives an insouciant nod to stride piano ancestors on “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams.”

Perhaps the highlight is an homage to Ahmad Jamal on a highly personalized version of “Poinciana,” propelled by DeJohnette’s interpretation of the iconic beat that Vernell Fournier stated on the original.

Unencumbered by iconic interpretations of the now vernacularized repertoire, Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette impart to their statements the improvising-from-point-zero approach that is their trademark; they avoid cliché while retaining idiomatic nuances of phrasing and swing that define the form and make it live. All in all, a stimulating paean to the rejuvenating powers of improvisation by one of the supreme communicators in jazz.


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