Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette – Somewhere (2013)

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The combined talents of Jarrett, Peacock, and DeJohnette extend far beyond technical facility. They’ve played together for so long now that to look for their line between improvisation and straight play is to miss the point. Listening to Deep Space/Solar from Somewhere, I hear an exploration that, while nothing (at first) like “Solar,” attempts — and succeeds — to find common ground. When the transition point is found , it’s as exhilarating for the listener as the performer.

With a few notable exceptions (Brad Mehldau first comes to mind), I can think of very few modern jazz groups capable of making improvisation seem so effortless and organic. Their approach is what makes the return to such well-worn material seem so new and fresh, which is exactly why this album such a joyous listen.

This record of one night at Lucern, Switzerland’s KKL Concert Hall showcases the trio’s magical ability of looking for the shimmering new in the songbook of the past. If you’re up for some straight swing, there’s the Monk-ish take on Harold Arlen’s “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea,” with Peacock’s supple bass support of Jarrett’s tangled piano lines and DeJohnette’s seemingly endless rhythmic colorations. Then there’s the pensive and lovely “Stars Fell On Alabama.” Jarrett’s quiet introduction sets the stage for a full trio embrace of the ballad form. My ears love how Jarrett is able to conjure a sort of time-stretching effect by switching back and forth from an echoing rubatto to more aggressive (and note-filled) clusters.

Of course, the centerpiece here is the Bernstein/Sondheim gem “Somewhere.” The full title is more properly “Somewhere/Everywhere,” as the trio plays a gloriously expansive version of the former tune before morphing into “Everywhere,” a long-form improvisation that’s reminiscent of Jarrett’s solo concerts. Two chords are rested upon, investigated, and taken apart for their harmonic possibilities. I felt some delicious tension on first listen because, like many scenarios in Jarrett’s improvised shows, I kept wondering how the trio would manage to make their way back to “Somewhere.” That path was not taken of course and, curiously, that tension has not abated even though the “truth” was revealed.

Earlier I used the word “magical” to describe this trio’s talents; this is perhaps an improper use of that concept. There’s nothing really magical about improvisation. We live lives that are entirely improvised. Our much younger selves had absolutely no fear of improvisation. We called this “play.” It’s something that we forget as time passes, and that’s a sad thing. Imagine a world in which daily events were traversed with the considered bliss found on Somewhere. It would be more beautiful than it already is.

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