November 2022 Jazz Record Reviews

Keith Jarrett: Bordeaux Concert
Jarrett, piano
ECM 2740 (CD, available as 2 LPs, download). 2022. Keith Jarrett, prod.; Martin Pearson, eng.
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

At first, to hear this record is to be overwhelmed with sadness. Keith Jarrett suffered two strokes in 2018. It is unlikely that he will ever perform again. Bordeaux Concert reminds us of what we have lost. It comes from a European tour in 2016. ECM has previously released two other concerts from that tour, Munich 2016 in 2019 and Budapest Concert in 2020.

The improvised solo piano concert is an art form Jarrett invented. For 30 years, those concerts were unbroken outpourings—single, huge, continuous arcs of invention. After 2002, Jarrett began to break up his solo performances into discrete pieces. Some of the majesty of the original format was lost, but distillation and focus were often gained.

Even after 2002, Jarrett's solo concerts could become wild occasions. On this night in France, from the first notes, he opens the floodgates. "Part I" is a maze of atonality sustained for 13 startling minutes. The most amazing twist is when it turns suddenly lyrical. In "III," Jarrett comes upon a melody floating in free air and gives it revelatory chord voicings. It clarifies into a simple, deep, rapt ballad, joyful yet solemn as a hymn. Bordeaux Concert is a long winding road that passes through many domains of emotion. Parts "V," "VIII," and "X" are intense. The other parts are slow searches. But the hard pieces sometimes flower into sweet song, and the soft pieces can break loose and fly. Jarrett's solo concerts have always required creative listeners who are willing to let go and trust the flow. Their reward is to be participants, experiencing spontaneous beauty along with Jarrett as he discovers it, moment to moment.

By the end, the sadness of hearing this album has become gratitude. What Jarrett created in his long life in music can never be taken from us.—Thomas Conrad


Barre Phillips, György Kurtág Jr.: Face à Face
Barre Phillips, double bass; György Kurtág Jr., live electronics
ECM 2735 (24/96 MQA FLAC, Tidal). 2022.
Manfred Eicher, prod.; Gérard de Haro, Manfred Eicher, György Kurtág Jr., Barre Phillips, engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****½

Forget about categories. Face à Face is a dialog between two musical geniuses, one working acoustically, the other electronically. It's music that transmits exquisite silence, infinite space, extreme timbral contrasts, and poetic magnanimity through small gestures. It's a creative miracle.

György Kurtág Jr. has inherited from his late composer father a brilliant economy of gesture. Using Yamaha DX7 II-FD, Korg T3, and Roland JD-800 synthesizers augmented by Roland HandSonic digital percussion, he responds to Barre Phillips's freeform double bass improvisations with what he terms a "dynamic shadow" of leads and directions. Regardless of whether those shadows are followed, the result is an endlessly fascinating, multidimensional dialog.

When Jim Austin tipped me off to Face à Face, I first auditioned it over my iPhone's speaker. Are you kidding me? I couldn't hear the deep bass, of course—there's significant information below 40Hz on this album—or the warmth of Phillips's instrument, or the extraordinary colors Kurtág Jr. creates. Even on a highly resolving system, it's hard to tell if the percussion on "Stand Alone," one of the album's 12 fancifully titled tracks, is synthesized or real. In other places, it's a challenge to tell where the bassline ends and Kurtág's electronics take over.

Nor does any of that matter. On this maximally immersive recording, what counts is the journey the music takes you on. Perhaps the outer-space weirdness

I hear on "Algobench" will strike you differently. Will you find the little sounds dancing and darting around the double bass in "Chosen Spindle" delicious, or the end of "Forest Shouts" delightful? What's it all about? What's it all? What's "it"?—Jason Victor Serinus


Al Foster: Reflections
Foster, drums; Nicholas Payton, trumpet; Chris Potter, tenor and soprano saxophones; Kevin Hays, piano, Fender Rhodes; Vicente Archer, bass
Smoke Sessions SSR-2203 (CD, available as high-resolution download). 2022. Paul Stache, Damon Smith, prods.; Chris Allen, eng.
Performance ****
Sonics ****

Few jazz drummers have played with more of the important musicians of their time than Al Foster. His primary affiliations were with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Henderson. An abbreviated secondary list includes Dexter Gordon, McCoy Tyner, Tommy Flanagan, Blue Mitchell, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Art Pepper, and Red Garland. They all hired Foster because he made their bands sound better. He had a lighter touch than most of his more famous peers. But his lithe, economical movements on snare and ride cymbal could drive a band like a jockey whipping a thoroughbred to the finish line.

At 79, Foster still plays that way. A glance at the personnel above confirms that Reflections is an all-star date. It is this lifelong sideman's fifth recording as a leader. The repertoire includes jazz standards by Davis, Rollins, Hancock, and Henderson. They connect Foster to his history, but in the hands of this badass quintet, 60-year-old tunes take on intense new life. On Rollins's "Pent-Up House," Chris Potter on tenor saxophone rides Foster's cushion of air, hurtling forward, spilling ideas torrentially. On pieces like Henderson's "Punjab," Nicholas Payton, with his fragmented trumpet lines and shattering staccatos, is most responsible for placing the session in the third decade of the new millennium.

On this horn-centric album, the loveliest piece is a piano feature. Hancock's "Alone and I" opens with Kevin Hays's left hand marking out widely spaced ambiguous chords. Then his right hand quietly pursues a melody that keeps circling back on itself, like a question that haunts the heart.

Reflections asserts the current relevance of one of the great living drummers in jazz.—Thomas Conrad


Dado Moroni: There Is No Greater Love
Moroni, piano; Jesper Lundgaard, bass; Lee Pearson, drums
Storyville 1018493 (CD, available as hi-rez download). 2022. Christian Brorsen, prod.; Mik Neumann, eng.
Performance ****
Sonics ***½

Most of the important Italian jazz piano players are conservatory-trained and have deep roots in European classical music. Not Dado Moroni. He is self-taught. He lived in New York in the 1990s, and his most obvious influences are American. He can channel McCoy Tyner and make you remember Oscar Peterson's ridiculous speed and boundless ideas. Moroni is not a groundbreaker. But the innocent delight he takes in his chops, his passion to communicate, and his unrelenting energy make him a super salesman of the piano.

This live album comes from a series of concerts at Jazzhus Montmarte in Copenhagen honoring Oscar Peterson's great bassist, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. The bassist here, Jesper Lundgaard, is featured. No one ever made the bass sing like NHØP, but Lundgaard is sincerely lyrical and almost as fast. Moroni acknowledges Peterson, but his creative methods are his own. On the title track and "Just One of Those Things," he starts slowly, even haltingly, as he searches for an opening. When he finds one, like Oscar, he flies.

Moroni's interpretation of John Lewis's "Django" is unique. He abides by the song's timeless, hovering, suspenseful opening. But then he abandons all caution and discovers in "Django" an unsuspected wicked throb.

Just when you think Moroni's natural intensity prevents him from dwelling in a ballad domain, he plays "My Foolish Heart." Bill Evans owned it. Like all the tunes here except one Moroni original, Peterson recorded it. Moroni's encounter with "My Foolish Heart" is rapt and personal. He draws it out, in a measured unfolding that cannot be rushed. He embroiders it freely but never breaks the spell. Lundgaard also comes from deep inside the song. In his far-reaching solo, he never quite relinquishes the wistful melody.—Thomas Conrad

Allen Fant's picture

Great reviews, as always- TC.
I am looking forward to the Keith Jarrett (CD).