Keith Jarrett / Jack DeJohnette / Gary Peacock, Royal Festival Hall, London
Monday 01 August 2011
Every time Keith Jarrett visits the Royal Festival Hall, something special happens.
The pianist called his 2008 solo concert here "a throbbing, never to be repeated, pulsing rock band of a concert"; this show by his jazz trio was equally thrilling, a demonstration of what can be achieved when three open minds are in perfect sync. Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette teased the maximum potential from two sets of material, and were then called back for encore after encore.
There is an odd formality about the start, the three men in black bowing droopily, before Jarrett leads into Dave Brubeck's "Your Own Sweet Way", hunched over his keyboard, rising from his stool as if to peer inside the instrument. His accompanists wait like the rest of us, rapt. DeJohnette starts on cymbals alone – he is a master of the jazz art of keeping time on them, rather than the punchy bass drum of pop and rock – before hitting skin around the time Jarrett utters his first "Yah!"
DeJohnette is a marvel, an undemonstrative, precise drummer who relies on subtle detail rather than mere power, his arms barely seeming to move as his sticks dance across the drums. His reserve complements the pianist's more animated style, Jarrett's feet twisting and bouncing as he enters deeper into the music. Peacock is the rock whose oozing lines comprise the still centre of the trio's sound, as they move with calm assurance through "Basin Street Blues" and "The Bitter End". The latter is a highlight, shifting gear to develop a light, Latin-flavoured groove: DeJohnette adds the subtlest of syncopated lines which Peacock's bass strides coolly over, Jarrett dancing the melody around them.
The second set opens with some light-hearted schtick from Jarrett, before diving into a frisky "Bop Be", in which DeJohnette makes the rhythm perform the musical equivalent of a somersault, using just his bass drum. "Yesterdays" is another highlight, with faint echoes of "Round Midnight" helping to resolve an initial imbalance between piano and cymbals. A series of fast, frantic scurryings between instruments through Ornette Coleman's "When Will the Blues Leave" brings the set to an end, before the encore of "God Bless the Child" hoists the concert even higher, the funky, loose-limbed interpretation resolving into a deeply satisfying, hypnotic pulse that grips the audience right to the end.
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