I’ve never been able to get into Keith Jarrett’s music, no matter how I tried. I’m one of those who’re put off by his vocalizations. I know it’s my loss, because he’s one of the most successful and highly honored musicians of the past 50 years, and made indelible contributions to music on an international scale. So I’m pleased to have this album of gorgeous music that honors his legacy in a very creative manner. (It follows on the heels of a similar but more stripped down affair, Noah Haidu’s Standards.)
Danish pianist Carsten Dahl joins with his trio of bassist Nils Bo Davidsen and drummer Stefan Pasborg, plus virtuoso trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and saxophonist Fredrik Lundin and members of Ensemble Midtvest to explore some of Jarrett’s most iconic songs, many of which he was known to toss off as encores. Some are songs he wrote, some are standards that he turned into iconic performances, and some are songs others wrote for him. Dahl (and possibly some Ensemble members) have created some amazing arrangements of these solo pieces, highlighting Jarrett’s penchant for blurring the lines between jazz and classical piano music.
Some of the choices here very much fell within my expectations, including the delicate live solo piano closer “Over The Rainbow,” the frustratingly short pass at the inestimable “When I Fall In Love,” and the dramatic moving “Little Song For Fredrik,” with its soaring piano and sax solos. “The Mysterious Corona” and the aptly named “Polyphonistic Nightmares” are more modern classical than jazz, and both are stirring displays of the Ensemble’s expertise at the improvised classical style that is their specialty. “October Song” and “Flying Away” make use of those orchestral strings in other ways; the latter is paired with “Song For Keith,” a crashing, thunderous, electrified modern jazz improvizational excursion, which shows a rather unexpected (by me) side of the pianist.
Which brings us to the amazing electric rock fusion of “Evil Speak & Adonis,” full of thundering electric bass guitar, crashing jazz-rock drumming and a tour-de-force display by Dahl on either a Wurlitzer or Rhodes – with an amazing cameo by the Ensemble. “Bass-anity” and “Drumdance” are showcases for Dahl’s trio mates Davidsen and Pasborg, respectively. And “Prism” and “Allentown Blues” offer pretty straight blues-based jazz, the former by the quintet alone and the latter with added atmosphere from the Ensemble.
There’s something for every kind of jazz listener on The Solo Songs of Keith Jarrett, and for every kind of Keith Jarrett fan.
(Storyville Records, 2023)