JJ 12/82: Keith Jarrett – Somewhere Before

Forty years ago Mike Hennessey regretted the 'superbly gifted' Jarrett didn't spend more time on changes playing before moving towards ECM. First published in Jazz Journal December 1982


What a superbly gifted pianist Keith Jarrett is! A genuine virtuoso with an apparently limitless ability for creative improvisation and a wide diversity of inspiration. His is music of multiple sources and resources, and integrity shines through every­thing he does – unlike the music of some would-be imitators.

This album features Jarrett at 23, during the period when he was with the Charles Lloyd Quartet, accom­panied by two musicians of appro­priate stature. Recorded at Shelly’s Manne Hole, the eight tracks capture the many facets of Jarrett’s piano mastery – gracious and sensi­tive ballad playing as on Pretty Ballad and Dedicated To You (evocations of Bill Evans); a respect – sometimes tinged with humour – for the jazz of previous eras, as in Old Rag and New Rag; a flawless touch with mood pieces like A Mo­ment For Tears; a rare flair for com­position (all tracks except My Back Pages and Dedicated To You) par­ticularly in evidence on the superb Pouts’ Over which has a decided affinity with Sombrero Sam; and a propensity for generating a good old rampaging, free-form knees-up (Moving Soon) while still exercising control and preserving musical probity.

In a totally selfish way, I often feel with Jarrett that he should have done more to explore the limits of his music as he conceived it in the sixties before leaving it behind im­patiently to pursue new paths. Like Bill Evans with Miles Davis, Jarrett in this period added so much to the modern jazz piano canon when he was playing changes that one could wish he had made more albums in this vein before moving into his ECM phase.

As George Avakian says in the note, Keith Jarrett’s playing is a product of his total experience. When he plays, you hear what he was, is and will be.

This is a superb piano album and Jarrett gets precisely the kind of watchful and sympathetic support you would expect from Haden and Motian.

My Back Pages; Pretty Ballad; Mov­ing Soon; Somewhere Before (19.28) – New Rag; A Moment For Tears; Pouts’ Over (And The Day’s Not Through); Dedicated To You; Old Rag (19.03)
Keith Jarrett (p); Charlie Haden (b): Paul Motian (d). Hollywood, Aug. 30 & 31, 1968.
(Atlantic SD8808)