After 18 years together and 13 recordings, several of them multiple-disc sets, it might seem difficult to pinpoint a career highlight, but for Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio, this could be it. Recorded at London’s Royal Festival Hall over two nights in July 2000, Inside Out captures the trio departing from its regular format to improvise freely without the framework of the American popular songbook or bop standards for all but seven minutes. The result is spell-inducing, covering the gamut from minimalist elegance of “When I Fall In Love” to the blazing clatter of “Riot.”
Harkening back to the years when he walked the improvisational tightrope alone, Jarrett relies heavily on short rhythmic and melodic motifs as building blocks, and his partners respond in kind. The opening “From The Body” is a perfect model of how the trio shapes a dynamic 23 minutes of music from the smallest gestures. Jarrett begins by toying with a probing melodic fragment, like a boxer moving in and out, feigning and jabbing. As Peacock and DeJohnette listen and respond, Jarrett mixes things up even more, his attack at turns urgent and languorous. The drummer and bassist step in for brief solos, then Jarrett returns in a much more retrospective mood. But Peacock has an alternate plan. Slowly, he insinuates a hypnotic, tautly plucked riff, enticing Jarrett to respond as DeJohnette shifts to mallets for a dark-hued backdrop. After about four minutes of this, Peacock assumes control reintroducing his initial riff to Jarrett’s audible pleasure. This is masterful give and take, and it happens time and again.
The only exception is “Riot,” a seven-minute slice of a 30-minute improvisation, which opens intensely and never lets up. DeJohnette sizzles and snaps, reminiscent of the insistent percussion that dominated Miles Davis’ raucous On The Corner.
As Jarrett points out in his liner notes, the blues is the lingua franca of these improvisations, nowhere more so than on the title track, which sounds like one of the pianist’s early ’70s solo excursions with rhythmic accompaniment.
If last year’s bop-drenched live set Whisper Not signaled that Jarrett was back at full force, Inside Out gives notice that the band has stepped it up another notch. At this point in its existence, the name the Standards Trio has ceased to signify the band’s repertoire; rather, it stands for the level they set for other improvisers.
Inside Out: From The Body; Inside Out; 341 Free Fade; Riot; When I Fall In Love. (78:08)
Personnel: Keith Jarrett, piano; Gary Peacock, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums.