Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette – Yesterdays (2009)

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Photobucketby Pico

On January 27, ECM Records presents yet another recording of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack deJohnette in concert. This will make it the fourth one…from 2001 dates alone. Prior to this performance in Tokyo, The Out-of-Towners, Always Let Me Go and one we’ve covered here previously, My Foolish Heart, have been made available. As before, this most durable and consistent of trios performs nothing but tried-and-true jazz standards, ranging from old show tunes to bop classics.

This latest chronicle of the threesome’s 2001 endeavors, called Yesterdays, offers no big surprises over most of the other scores of Jarrett/Peacock/DeJohnnette recorded offerings. Those waiting to see the boys switch to electronic instruments or play whacked-out, unrecognizable versions of these familiar tunes are going to once again be disappointed.

And so, you might wonder whether it’s even worth the bother to write about such a record. It is, because when it comes to rendering the classic building blocks of any self-respecting jazz musician’s repertoire of songs, as Carly Simon once sang, “nobody does it better.” As Jarrett himself once explained to the Los Angeles Times, “We know how musical these songs are…Jazz musicians don’t have to always break down doors: there’s music inside the rooms too.”

The mere fact that there is sustained popularity among jazz enthusiasts for listening to routine compositions played by these guys so faithfully close to the melody is a testament to how well these songs are played. Coupled with the virtually flawless recording quality the results from the label’s high engineering standards, the result is a good thing that there can’t possibly be too much of.

As the opening “Strollin'” reveals, though, playing covers straight up doesn’t mean playing them exactly like the original. Jarrett & Co. employs a lighter, more graceful tough than Horace Silver did for his original, while keeping the song’s core swing element intact.

“You Took Advantage Of Me,” also found on My Foolish Heart, is the liveliest tune of this bunch, starting and ending with Jarrett’s solo ragtime rumblings and and some hard-swinging solos from both Peacock and DeJohnette somewhere in-between. It also serves as a nice display of Jarrett’s strong rhythmic sense, functioning so well as a single unit with the rhythm section…even when he is going off on right hand excursions.

In other highlights, Jarrett begins Dizzy Gillespie’s “Shaw’nuff” with a classical piano phrasing before launching into some electrifying bop runs, culminating with a delightful call and response with DeJohnette. “Yesterdays” is taken at a slower pace than I’ve typically heard it rendered, but Peacock’s brief bass solo is appropriately affecting. More classic bop comes by way of Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From The Apple,” where DeJohnette takes an unexpected approach by accompanying his cymbal ride with oddly but effectively placed snare accents.

The closing track “Stella By Starlight” wasn’t even performed in front of a live audience, as it was merely a sound check. Even under these circumstances, the trio is playing with all the dedication of playing in front of royalty; a true attestation to their desire to make great music for their own entertainment as much as the entertainment of others.

In retrospect, 2001 was a very good year for Keith Jarrett’s standards trio. The already-released Up For It notwithstanding, I can’t to hear what 2002 has to bring from this combo.

(A side note, ECM is doing something with this album it hadn’t done in some fifteen years: they are releasing it on vinyl, too! It will be a double-LP 180 gram vinyl grade. If you can’t find it on Amazon, check ECM’s website starting on January 27.)

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