The JVC Jazz Festival is in New York City (a bit of an absurdity: New York City is a jazz festival, all the time). A crazy schedule prevents me from seeing much this year (less and less of this festival is actually jazz, in any case), but I’m definitely catching the Keith Jarrett-Gary Peacock-Jack DeJohnette trio, Thursday night at Carnegie Hall, and Lee Konitz playing with a few bands, in honor of his 80th birthday (!), Monday night at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.

Jarrett, whose stature as the premiere jazz pianist can’t really be contested, has been at his peak the past few years, and his trio is impeccable. If you can’t make it, do the next best thing: stay home and listen to his last few CDs—The Carnegie Hall Concert (a riveting solo album recorded two years ago: I was there; the two-disc set captures the magic, especially the second disc, with its five melodic encores) and the two most recent (and, I think, best) trio discs, The Out-of-Towners and Tokyo ’96.

Konitz, the alto saxophonist with the breathy tone and the rippling cadences, has been a prominent figure since 1949, when he played with Miles Davis’ “Birth of the Cool” band, into the ‘50s as acolyte to the innovative Lennie Tristano, and on and on. He’s made hundreds of albums, but his 1961 pianoless trio date, Motion, with Elvin Jones’ pan-rhythmic drumming and Sonny Dallas’ anchor-tight basslines, is a must-have, a recording that rerouted free jazz into a whole new direction, at once knotty and dancing-in-your-head accessible. Also check out Alone Together (with Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden), Star Eyes (duets with the head-spinning but always-lyrical French pianist, Martial Solal), Thingin’(with a guitar trio), and Sound of Surprise (with the spirited Zornites, bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron).

Lionel's picture

Can't be contested? I'm surprised nobody has commented. Jarrett is certainly one of the best, but with McCoy Tyner, Cecil Taylor, and Hank Jones (to name 3) still alive, can you really put Jarrett ahead that easily?