JJ 01/84: Keith Jarrett – Standards, Vol 1

Forty years ago, Simon Adams thought the beginning of the pianist's long immersion in the American songbook not entirely convincing. First published in Jazz Journal January 1984


This is an important album for Jarrett in that it marks a notable addition to his recorded output. For the first time in his prolific career, he has tackled some of the stan­dards of the American popular song repertoire, and recorded a complete album’s worth of such writers as Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, and Billie Holiday. The results, however, are mixed.

Three of these pieces almost elude Jarrett, remaining beyond his grasp as if he was afraid to attempt too much. Thus despite the use of displaced meter and other effects, the impeccable melodic and harmonic invention and the keen empathy in the trio, All The Things, It Never Entered My Mind and Masquerade fail to convince. For someone of such an individual style, Jarrett fails to stamp his own identity on these pieces.

But on the other two tracks, Jarrett firmly takes possession and finds his own voice. Both retain their own identity, but in radical reworkings, both become saturated with Jarrett’s own vision.

On God Bless This Child Jarrett takes the simple melody and stretches it to over 15 minutes through repetition. A syncopated piano solo opens into a rich, funky, soulful rendering of the theme by the trio, each member in turn repetitively punching out the theme on the beat. The original tune is closely followed, but the hypnotic effect achieved by the trio as the piece builds to a climax gives a new interpretation to a well-worn tune. Likewise with Memory Of The Blues, which achieves its strength and individuality through the subtle investigations of the harmony and rhythms.

Whatever I say matters little however, for any Jarrett fan will get this album regardless. But for those unfamiliar with his playing, Jarrett is never more approachable than on this album, and for once those vague tunes which crop up in his improvisations are now directly attributable.

Memory Of The Blues; All The Things You Are; It Never Entered My Mind (23.49) – The Mas­querade Is Over; God Bless This Child (21.27)
Keith Jarrett (p); Gary Peacock (b); Jack DeJohnette (d). Recorded Jan 1983, Power Station, New York.
(ECM 1255)