'After the Fall' Chronicles Keith Jarrett's Late '90s Return to the Stage

As jazz pianist Keith Jarrett recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome, he recorded this live set of bebop tracks that are first now seeing the light of day.

After the Fall
Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette


2 Mar 2018

In 1999, pianist Keith Jarrett recorded and released a quiet album of jazz standards named The Melody at Night With You. It was recorded during his recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome.

More recently, Jarrett released a box set of 20-year-old material that he recorded in concert just before he fell ill called A Multitude of Angels. These two releases served as appropriate bookends to the whole ordeal. Angels was the sound of Jarrett testing his physical and mental stamina with a series of improvised solo concerts that found him digging deeper and deeper into his melodic and harmonic wells. Melody was low-key, recorded at home, and consisted of all covers.

Now a third release is thrown into the story. Jarrett's standards trio, with Gary Peacock on double bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums, decided to put on a show in Newark, New Jersey in November, 1998 -- right in the middle of the pianist's slow recovery. Some doctors might refer to this move as foolish, while Jarrett himself continually calls it an "experiment" in the liner notes of After the Fall. And as far as experiments go, this one fared just fine. The trio pulled off a well-received 12-song set spanning almost more than 100 minutes inside a venue was equipped with a DAT machine to capture it all. Almost 20 years later, ECM has released After the Fall, an album that has no problem fitting into the thick legacy of Keith Jarrett's standards trio.

It was Jarrett's choice to play mostly bebop material that night, which on the surface, sounds absolutely nuts at first. Aren't you supposed to take it easy after a bout of C.F.S.? "[A]lthough it required great technique, I didn't think I needed to play as hard as I often did," he rationalizes in the liner notes. It seems reasonable to imagine a staple like "Autumn Leaves" getting a light touch, as the trio does at the close of the first disc. There's also Charlie Parker's "Scrapple from the Apple", John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice", Bud Powell's "Bouncin' with Bud", Paul Desmond's "Late Lament", Sonny Rollins's "Doxy", and, since it was November, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". At the other end of the spectrum are the comparatively more easygoing numbers "Old Folks", "I'll See You Again", "Late Lament" and "When I Fall in Love". As is the case with many of the in concert recordings created by Jarrett and his standards trio, they can do justice to all slices of the genre. Every note is given the same convincing weight, whether it be hard bop or a pensive ballad.

Although Jarrett may be equipped with his characteristic focus on After the Fall, it's clear that the driving energy has been dialed down a few notches. He still cares deeply about these old melodies and he still impulsively groans along with his playing, but these twelve tunes never exactly kick into high gear. This is, of course, to be expected. Keith Jarrett was still on the road to recovery and Gary Peacock was about to face his own health problems just five or six years later. Still, a muted form of energy is better than no energy at all, and I don't think anyone has ever accused Jarrett's standards trio of phoning it in. Starting number "The Masquerade Is Over" jumps into the post-bop end with both feet, complete with dense harmonies and a perplexing groove from Jack DeJohnette. The touch applied to "Scrapple from the Apple" is so light that you can be forgiven for not noticing its hard bop origins.

Like I said, Jarrett goes out of his way to call this particular concert an "experiment". Therefore, you can't very well hold it up against The Köln Concert and come out satisfied. After the Fall needs to be measured against a different yardstick, one that takes Jarrett's C.F.S. into account as well as the fact that none of these gentlemen are spring chickens. All things considered, this double album is a modest success that, along with A Multitude of Angels, fills in the gaps of Jarrett's late '90s career. Why these things sit around in boxes for 20 years, I don't know, but at least they're seeing the light of day.





Learning to Take a Picture: An Interview With Inara George

Inara George is unafraid to explore life's more difficult and tender moments. Discussion of her latest music, The Youth of Angst, leads to stories of working with Van Dyke Parks and getting David Lee Roth's musical approval.


Country Westerns Bask in an Unparalleled Sound and Energy on Their Debut

Country Westerns are intent on rejecting assumptions about a band from Nashville while basking in an unparalleled sound and energy.


Rediscovering Japanese Director Tomu Uchida

A world-class filmmaker of diverse styles, we take a look at Tomu Uchida's very different Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji and The Mad Fox.


The Charlatans' 'Between 10th and 11th' Gets a Deluxe Edition

Not even a "deluxe" version of Between 10th and 11th from the Charlatans can quite set the record straight about the maligned-but-brilliant 1992 sophomore album.


'High Cotton' Is Culturally Astute and Progressive

Kristie Robin Johnson's collection of essays in High Cotton dismantle linear thinking with shrewdness and empathy.


Lianne La Havas Is Reborn After a Long Layoff

British soul artist Lianne La Havas rediscovers herself on her self-titled new album. It's a mesmerizing mix of spirituality and sensuality.


PC Nackt Deconstructs the Classics with 'Plunderphonia'

PC Nackt kicks off a unique series of recordings dedicated to creating new music by "plundering" unexpected historical sources such as classical piano pieces or chamber orchestra music.


Counterbalance 24: The Doors - 'The Doors'

Before you slip into unconsciousness, Counterbalance has put together a few thoughts on the Doors' 1967 debut album. It's number 24 on the Big List.

Reading Pandemics

Parable Pandemics: Octavia E. Butler and Racialized Labor

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, informed by a deep understanding of the intersectionality of dying ecologies, disease, and structural racism, exposes the ways capitalism's insatiable hunger for profit eclipses humanitarian responses to pandemics.


'Tiger King' and the Post-Truth Culture War

Tiger King -- released during and dominating the streaming-in-lockdown era -- exemplifies in real-time the feedback loop between entertainment and ideology.


GOD's 'God IV - Revelation' Is a Towering Feat of Theologically-Tinged Prog Metal (album stream)

GOD's God IV - Revelation is beautiful and brutal in equal measure. It's a masterful series of compositions. Hear it in full today before tomorrow's release.


Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.