Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Jazz Review

Intimate Improvisation From Pianist Keith Jarrett

November 18, 2000|DON HECKMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There is no jazz experience quite like the opportunity to hear a world-class artist at the top of his or her form. And on Thursday night at UCLA's Royce Hall, pianist Keith Jarrett was functioning at a very high level indeed. Dealing with the chronic fatigue syndrome that has plagued him for the last few years has taken him on a frightening and difficult journey. But the length and breadth of his improvisational imagination have not been stunted. In fact, if his playing here was any indication, they have continued to grow and mature.

Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette came on stage as they always do, casually and unpretentiously, as relaxed and easygoing as three craftsmen ready to go to work. Most of the set was devoted to the sort of standards they have been scrutinizing for more than a decade, tunes such as "When I Fall in Love," "The Song Is You," "Lover" and "But Not for Me," as well as a bop line or two, and a closing, somewhat whimsical look at the Ahmad Jamal interpretation of "Poinciana."

But the real magic of the evening was triggered by the manner in which the trio repeatedly found undiscovered treasures in this lineup of relatively familiar material. Jarrett's improvisations have always been blessed with long, arcing musical lines, and that quality--diminished somewhat in his February 1999 appearance at Royce--was in full blossom. The slower numbers in particular--the harmonically suspenseful "When I Fall in Love" was a good example--were illuminated by Jarrett's flowing, spontaneous melodies, their impact enhanced by vocal-like pauses for emotional breathing between phrases.

That quality of vocalization, in fact, of singing through his piano lines, gave Jarrett's performance an amazingly intimate quality, the expressiveness of his soloing pulling the audience into the rich ebb and flow of his improvisations. On up-tempo numbers such as "Lover"--which emerged full-blown from a lengthy, labyrinthine-free improvisation--the effect was enhanced, as Jarrett danced at high speed across a tightrope of fast-moving rhythm.

Peacock and DeJohnette played a largely supportive role, occasionally contributing interstitial solos, but serving as both the cushion and the contrast for Jarrett's brilliant impromptus. Together, before a sold-out, avidly enthusiastic crowd, they offered a convincing display of the manner in which jazz can make a close and familiar audience connection without sacrificing an iota of its creative essence.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|