Fitting for this instrumental recording, we begin with the words. Keith Jarrett has a way with language that mirrors in some respect his wizardry at the keyboard: His liner essay for Jasmine is as simple as the elements that he and Haden applied to these classic tunes, yet their meaning is complex and elusive, much like the emotions stirred by the songs themselves and their interpretations in particular. Jarrett doesn’t deny the romanticism of this project, which effectively takes up where he left off with his exquisite solo album The Melody At Night, With You. In fact, he suggests that each listener call his or her “wife or husband or lover late at night and sit down and listen” to these “great love songs.”
Jarrett would have us use this occasion to share treasures that are “dying in this world,” art being foremost among them. With its disappearance, so will we lose that capacity for emotion that defines the better sides of who we are. It’s likely that the composers of these tunes didn’t write with such a weighty mission in mind. But Jarrett has a point. In jazz, as in many aspects of life, the experiential pace has quickened and yet also grown shallower; water splashes faster through the sleeker creek, distracting us from seeing how little lies beneath its surface.
That depth is what Jasmine is all about. Jarrett and Haden play with what might be described as awesome restraint, given the razzle and dazzle each could have brought to the table, with Haden in his familiar mode of playing sparely, sometimes investing each note with a weighty grace. Their method becomes clear especially on the brisker songs, though these tend to stroll rather than hurtle. On “No Moon at All,” Jarrett ramps up only very briefly to a 16th-note clip, right before Haden’s solo. Instead, he explores the melody thoughtfully, not through the usual right-hand line over a left-hand comp but through a kind of harmonic bloom, rustled by hints of counterpoint and more organic than static in the movement of its parts.
Jarrett’s eloquence peaks in his unaccompanied intro to “I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life.” With chords alternately simple and clustered, centering briefly on a dominant pedal tone, then blossoming the harmony again before pulling back on the last four bars into a string of streamlined changes leading to Haden’s entrance, he makes exactly the point argued in his essay: It feels almost corny to describe what he’s doing as beautiful, because beauty has become either less of a priority or a cynical synonym for trendy. And yet beautiful is just what these moments are. — Robert L. Doerschuk
Jasmine: For All We Know; Where Can I Go Without You; No Moon At All; One Day I’ll Fly Away; I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out Of My Life; Body And Soul; Goodbye; Don’t Ever Leave Me. (62:30)
Personnel: Keith Jarrett, piano; Charlie Haden, bass.