Keith Jarrett describes this recording of his famed standards trio at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 2001 as showing “the trio at its most buoyant, swinging, melodic and dynamic.” It’s difficult to argue with that assessment, as this performance is one of the most straight-ahead, swinging, and joyous performances of the group since the release of Up For It.
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That disc was recorded in Juan-les-Pins, France, in July 2002. It would appear that the month of July has been especially good to Jarrett and the trios, as both of these performances were done in July, a year apart. In addition, both had obstacles to overcome—it was rainy at Juan-les-Pins, and the group didn’t feel inspired before going onstage, and Jarrett cites ‘bad problems with the sound, the lights, the unbelievable heat, and the audience’ in his liner notes to My Foolish Heart.
What makes this performance something special in the group’s 18-record discography with ECM? Well, as Jarrett himself says in the liner notes, “It shows the trio at its most buoyant, swinging, melodic, and dynamic.” And it’s impossible to argue with him. All three members seem to be in top form here, playing as well as possible on an individual basis while contributing equally to the group experience. Gary Peacock’s bass is ebullient and full of vigor, his solos gorgeous and limber. Jack DeJohnette approaches the drums with great energy, but while his drum work constantly interacts with the other instruments, he is never bombastic or overly busy.
Then there’s Jarrett himself, who plays with an energy that belies his age and his problems with chronic fatigue syndrome, now nearly a decade in the past. He plays the Fats Waller numbers “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose” with incredible swing and swagger, and these are incredibly rare performances for Jarrett. Together with “You Took Advantage of Me” these songs show Jarrett reveling in ragtime and stride, styles that he’s never explicitly performed on recording before. It’s difficult if not impossible to think of another group that is as comfortable with both standard jazz and free jazz as this one. As the group enters its 25th year together, it seems to have become more energized than ever. Since Jarrett’s return to the stage, the group has recorded two incredible albums of group improvisation (Inside Out and Always Let Me Go) and a series of standards performances that seem to grow ever more joyful (The Out of Towners, Up for It, and now My Foolish Heart).
This 110-minute complete concert is replete with fantastic musical moments—an energized rendition of Miles Davis’ “Four,” a gorgeous and romantic version of the title track, Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo,” a sumptuous “What’s New,” a mathematically perfect version of Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser” and a swinging “Five Brothers.” As this trio marks a quarter-century together there is no evidence of slowing down or not having new ideas to explore. Here’s hoping Jarrett, Peacock, and DeJohnette will continue to make exceptional music together far into the future.