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Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette – After The Fall        ECM 2590/91

Keith Jarrett: piano; Gary Peacock: double bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums

In the course of its 30-year lifespan the trio of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette – the group colloquially known as “the Standards trio” – made many outstanding recordings. And After The Fall, overflowing with sparkling playing and dynamic interaction, must rank with the very best of them.

“I was amazed to hear how well the music worked,” says Keith Jarrett. “For me, it’s not only a historical document, but a truly great concert.” This performance – in Newark, New Jersey in November 1998 – marked Jarrett’s return to the stage after a two-year hiatus. In fact, this concert was the first Jarrett had played since the 1996 Italian solo performances issued as A Multitude of Angels. In terms of the trio’s discography, it slots into the history before Whisper Not, recorded the following summer, and is thus the precursor of this group’s distinguished second period, where they seemed to find new freedoms both inside and beyond the world of jazz standards.

“We don’t bother with concepts, or theory, or maintaining some image,” Gary Peacock told Jazz Times a few years ago. “That’s of no concern whatsoever. So what that leaves is: everything. It leaves the music. Once you get to that point where you don’t feel like you have to make a statement anymore, you enter a space of enormous freedom.”

Together with improvising partners Peacock and DeJohnette, Jarrett glides and soars through classics of the Great American Songbook including “The Masquerade Is Over”, “Autumn Leaves”, “When I Fall In Love” and “I’ll See You Again”; they create their own music inside these familiar forms. Pete La Roca’s “One for Majid”, which would become a staple of the trio’s concerts in the 21st century, gets a sprightly treatment and sets the scene for a surprisingly boisterous, grooving version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, a chestnut which once attracted the attention of Paul Bley and Bill Evans. This in turn is followed by a rare Jarrett exploration of a Coltrane theme, as “Moment’s Notice” lifts the trio into a new energetic space.

There are also breath-taking accounts of hallowed bebop tunes including Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From The Apple”, Bud Powell’s “Bouncin’ With Bud” and Sonny Rollins’s “Doxy”. “Scrapple” is especially exhilarating, with dizzying right-hand sprays of notes from Jarrett, magically detailed by DeJohnette’s speeding cymbals, leading to rapid-fire exchanges between piano and drums. In his liner note, Jarrett reflects on the choice of material for this ‘experimental’ comeback concert. “I told the guys in the trio that for me bebop might be the best idea, although it required great technique, I didn’t think I needed to play as hard as I sometimes did…”

Ballads are also played with great tenderness. Paul Desmond’s “Late Lament” becomes a deep meditation, with Gary Peacock playing beautifully beneath Jarrett’s austere extension of the melody. “When I Fall In Love”, a favourite encore choice, is a as touching here as it has ever been.

“These songs have a soul that can be found,” Keith Jarrett once said. Few will disagree that the trio locate it, repeatedly, on After The Fall.

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