Keith Jarrett, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London

Around the South Bank the pavements are jammed and the car parks full. A Keith Jarrett concert is a big event on the jazz calendar and the discerning faithful are making their way to hear one of the most original and successful improvising pianists of the postmodern era. It's not one of his legendary solo concerts, but a gig with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, a trio that has been performing together for more than 20 years with an empathy and collective virtuosity comparable to the great bands of jazz history.

The repertoire consists of show songs, such as the opening A Foggy Day in London Town, and jazz standards, including a Monk-ish version of Now's the Time. Four's sparky tune is merely the starting point for a long piano solo that elicits gasps and cheers from the audience. The bass solos are generally shorter, but Peacock explores a different harmonic and stylistic language for each one.

DeJohnette gets a wide range of timbres from his kit. Most of the numbers employ a swinging, continually evolving jazz pulse. When they introduce a bit of funkiness it's like 1960s boogaloo with 21st-century clarity. The drummer has expanded his kit with a set of resonating cymbals that can sound like crotales or temple bells or Tibetan bowls. At the close of the trio's up-tempo version of Autumn Leaves, DeJohnette uses these new sounds to create an other-worldly, gamelan-like improvisation. Jarrett's understated reprise of the tune is the ultimate in cool culture-clash.

You can see why Jarrett, as a swinging one-stop shop, inspires such devotion: his trio draws on the stylistic adventures of jazz's classic period - from the 1930s to the 1960s - and turns them into chamber music that's as playful as Louis Armstrong, as serious as Pierre Boulez. There's an effortless complexity to their reinvention and reharmonisation of the great American songbook that recalls the Bill Evans trio, plus the inquisitive abstraction of Miles Davis's best bands. Few artists - in any kind of music - put so much into one evening.


John L Walters

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Jazz review, Keith Jarrett, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London
A gig that bubbled with ideas and grabbed your attention, says John Fordham

John Fordham

05, Dec, 2008 @12:01 AM

Article image
CD: Keith Jarrett, Radiance


John Fordham

06, May, 2005 @6:20 PM

Jazz review: Keith Jarrett: Yesterdays

It reflects the group's playful lightness and softer touch, as well as their pleasure in exploring such early styles as stride piano, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

20, Mar, 2009 @12:10 AM

Keith Jarrett – review

An unexpectedly genial Jarrette presented another sublime case for his enduring genius as a piano improviser, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

26, Feb, 2013 @6:16 PM

Jazz CD of the week

Jazz CD of the week: Keith Jarrett, Radiance

Dave Gelly

08, May, 2005 @1:17 AM

Keith Jarrett Trio – review
This wasn't Jarrett at his most blazingly transported, but it was upbeat, inventive and left a very warm feeling, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

28, Jul, 2011 @5:02 PM

Keith Jarrett: Rio – review
Jarrett himself rates this recording, and his music here is warm, edgy, romantic, funky, groovy and folky. A must-have, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

03, Nov, 2011 @9:59 PM

Keith Jarrett: Sleeper – review
An enthralling album featuring Jan Garbarek, Jon Christensen and Palle Danielsson from a Tokyo concert in 1979, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

12, Jul, 2012 @8:53 PM

Keith Jarrett | Jazz review

Royal Albert Hall
Jarrett and his Standard Trio partners were hypnotic as the improvised lines lengthened and the melodies grew more surprising, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

29, Jul, 2009 @8:00 PM

Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden: Jasmine | CD reveiw
Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden are in peerless form on this spellbinding studio album, writes Dave Gelly

Dave Gelly

08, May, 2010 @11:05 PM