Just when you thought a 68-year-old dude had explored every possible way to burn up a jazz standard, here he comes bearing some more.
When it comes to Keith Jarrett's recordings, I've always had a preference for his impromptu piano solos, the ones often named after the city in which he happened to be performing. It's not that I have anything against Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette playing standards that are 50 years old or more. It's just that those releases like La Scala, Solo Concerts: Bremen/Lausanne, The Köln Concert and Radiance are a full embodiment of what is new. They did not exist until Jarrett sat down at his piano, music that came from just a series of moments. No pen, no paper, just a series of specific moments that can't be replicated. But when I finally got around to giving Somewhere a good listen, I realized that this phenomenon rang true for Jarrett's standards trio as well. Yeah, "Stars Fell on Alabama" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" existed before the tapes started rolling -- long before. But Keith Jarrett's wild piano solos and idiosyncratic moans certainly didn't exist within these songs before then. So in that sense, there is always something new to take away from these kinds of albums.
Somewhere, the latest in a long line of live trio albums by Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette, doesn't feel as long as it's 65-plus-minute run time. Sure, it jockeys back and forth between slow, languid ballads and energized skitter rhythms, but it's hard to care enough to keep score. The first track packs both of these things together, a medley of "Deep Space" and "Solar". The other medley, "Somewhere/Everywhere", is one of those 19-minute journeys that doesn't feel excessive. Why? Because there's quite a bit going on in here, that's why. The West Side Story melody is pretty wrapped up in the many harmonic folds that a piano at Jarrett's command has to offer. As he stumbles upon another vamp, Jarrett slowly builds the music in moderate swing with DeJohnette responding accordingly. After it goes through the slow boil, narrowly avoiding an explosive climax and eventually fades away to some very enthusiastic applause, you realize that the core of the music did not change a great deal. It's what was around it that danced and swirled so much. After that, you get more West Side Story with "Tonight", a far easier theme to identify. This is one of those brisk tracks that makes 6:48 feel like nothing at all. Even at ten minutes, "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" seems to go by in a finger snap, the one that DeJohnette's stickwork and Jarrett's round-outs compel your finger to perform. Cha!
But there's still one thing I've barely touched on here, and I better address it; Keith Jarrett's vocalizations. Some fans don't mind them, many a detractor hate them with every fiber of their brain and there might even be some people out there who genuinely like them. I will steer clear of the debate and remind you to just be prepared. Seriously, these grunts and moans are serious. It makes me wonder if they set up a separate mic just for that purpose, and that maybe Keith Jarrett should get piano and vocal credit on the inside of the sleeve.
Somewhere is another quality album from Keith Jarrett's standards trio. Anything more or anything less lies in the ear of the beholder. And yes, if this were a new thing from a young musician, people would lose their shit over it. For Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette, it's business as usual. And as usual, business is good.