(photo credit: courtesy)
KEITH JARRETT & CHARLIE HADEN
What? Keith Jarrett
playing duo? If nothing else, Jasmine represents a seemingly startling departure
from the veteran pianist’s regular three-decade-plus trio lineup or occasional
solo endeavor. Then again, bassist Haden is an old Jarrett collaborator, even if
that was in the ’70s: back then they worked together on a regular basis in the
pianist’s acclaimed American Quartet, which ran from 1971 to 1979.
also contributed to Jarrett’s debut outing as leader, 1967’s Life Between the
Exit Signs. So, it can be said, the two seasoned pros know each pretty
It comes as no surprise, then, to find that Jasmine is essentially
an intimate tete-atete, almost as if the two were enjoying a quiet chat by the
fireside. The energy level of the album follows a mostly consistent low plateau
but there are plenty of subtle changes and departures en route across the rich
Haden has always put out the richest and velvetiest
of sounds, and that works as the perfect foil for Jarrett’s slightly more
cuspate keyboard work. The synergy seems to work best when Jarrett goes off a
cushioned bluesy tangent with Haden happy to fluff out the sound as only he
It is intriguing to follow the way Jarrett works with the Cy
Coleman-A. McCarthy standard “I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life,”
especially as Haden included the number in his sumptuous, aptly entitled 1999
release The Art of the Song, for which he employed the services of a chamber
orchestra in addition to his own Quartet West and a couple of vocalists.
Naturally, two instrumentalists on their own can’t possibly compete with the
vast array of possibilities Haden had at his behest on the earlier outing, but
Jarrett and Haden give it a good shot, nonetheless.RAN BLAKE & SARA
SERPACamera Obscura Inner Circle Music
Ran Blake has always been one of the
less predictable of pianists. Now 75, he fed off an early tantalizing visual
film noir diet, which informs his output to this day.
On Camera Obscura
he delves into a more melodic and lyrical territory than has generally been the
case over his long career to date. Portuguese-born 31- year-old Sara Serpa
certainly helps in this regard, her vocals soaring with pristinely emotive
warmth, often adding a childlike quality to some of Blake’s darker chords. On
“The Short Life of Barbara Monk,” penned by Blake, the pair go on a walkabout
into more ethereal strata, with Serpa sounding a bit like a younger version of
British vocalist Norma Winstone.
Despite the four decade-plus age gap
between them, Blake and Serpa sound like good friends and they work well
together, plying their way through complex chord structures like a knife through
the proverbial creamy butter. This pair conveys a sense of commensurate ease,
bordering on the insouciant, when executing material that with other artists may
have sounded highly challenging.
Flying Toward the Sound
When it comes to chops, pianist Geri Allen has ’em in abundance. Now 53,
Allen has served her dues – and then some – with some of the greats of
modern jazz community, including the likes of drummers Jack DeJohnette
Williams, saxophonist Charles Lloyd – with whom she appeared at the Red
Festival a few years ago – and iconic vocalist Betty Carter.
Toward the Sound is an ambitious solo expedition which finds Allen at
exploratory and lyrical best. She cites Keith Jarrett as one of her
and that comes through clearly in some of her flowing riffs and rubato
But there is often an edge to Allen’s work which adds prismatic
colors and textures that keeps the listener captivated.
subtitle notes Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock as the
for the album and, when it comes to improvisational nourishment, you
can’t get a
better feed than that.
Solo piano CDs aren’t always the easiest to listen
to, and the ride sometimes gets a mite bumpy, but Flying Toward the
Sound is a
rewarding audio odyssey.