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Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden

“Jasmine” -reviewed by Tim Owen


by Tim Owen

May 21, 2010


Tim Owen takes an alternative look at this eagerly awaited duo recording.

Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden


ECM 2165 273 3485

Keith Jarrett - Piano
Charlie Haden - Double bass

Jasmine begins as it continues, with a standard well familiar from the American songbook. On For All We Know, Keith Jarrett’s piano and Charlie Haden’s double bass most emphatically sound out the introductory melody in duo, perhaps making a statement. And if, inevitably thereafter, Jarrett’s piano routinely steals most of the limelight, and Haden’s bass is most ear-catching in his brief solo statements, Haden on this date is always more than a mere accompanist, and Jasmine is much more a duologue than was, despite it’s Haden composition, “Soapsuds Soapsuds”, on which Haden duetted with Ornette Coleman back in ‘77.

That now historic Haden/Ornette session was actually recorded after Jarrett and Haden’s last date together, which was, I believe “Eyes of the Heart”, recorded by Jarrett’s American Quartet in 1976. That alone must make this a notable release for Jarrett’s many followers, but it’s not the only point of discographical interest. Jasmine is also Jarrett’s first studio recording to be released since 1998’s solo “The Melody at Night, With You”. And both “The Melody” and “Jasmine” were recorded at Jarrett’s home studio, on a piano he describes as “(not) in the best of shape, yet I have this strange connection with it , and it is better for a kind of informality and slight funkiness that was going to work with the music”. The operative words there are “kind of” and “slight”. Yes, the sessions may have been informal, but they are deeply focused. And the funkiness, well that’s presumably Jarrett’s shorthand for the music’s air of spacious, unhurried timelessness, which apparently carried over into the session’s afterlife. The recording took four days, but Jarrett and Haden then, according to quotes in the press release, “lived with” the tapes and “disputed over choices” for three years.

Each selection persists a mood of mature, reflective melancholy. Just as Haden’s wonderfully woody and resonant bass might be considered a mature physical embodiment of these venerable compositions, full of dignity and gravitas, so Jarrett’s piano is that body’s consciousness, thoughts flitting like dappled sunlight through jewel-like melodies. That’s the experience for me, when I’m in the mood to give myself up to the music. When I’m not, certain selections, such as “One Day I’ll Fly Away”, can seem irremediably trite. The answer to those moods, perhaps unsurprisingly, lies in “Body and Soul”, with which Jarrett and Haden once again demonstrate the timeless malleability of this material.

While the unornamented brevity of the standards on “The Melody At Night?” received a mixed blessing, its perceived shortcomings generally attributed to the chronic fatigue syndrome with which Jarrett had then been struggling, this new recording captures the sound of both piano and bass with just the right blend of warmth and clarity, and the audible infelicities in the mix do nothing but add to a captivating sense of absolute immersion in the music being made by these two masterful musicians. Both men are, evidently, utterly absorbed in the act of compositional renewal. Jarrett can often be heard softly humming or, as is his way, chuntering along to his own accompaniment. I think it?s him, too, routinely adding in the occasional finger snap for emphasis, or it might sometimes be a key in that funky American Steinway clicking. The sense of perceptory abandon is never woolly or self indulgent; on the contrary, the years of collective experience are bought to bear with almost severe rigour, and that impregnates even the most hackneyed composition with a pliant muscularity.

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