Gift that keeps giving
Album of the Week
KEITH JARRETT/CHARLIE HADEN/PAUL MOTIAN Hamburg ’72 ★★★★★ ECM
A suspicion of hubris hangs over the release of any new ‘discovery’ from the archives of pianist Keith Jarrett. No other modern jazz musician has been as minutely documented as the virtuoso improviser from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and the Jarrett oeuvre, strictly curated by the pianist himself, now runs to several groaning shelves in the average completist’s collection – I should know. In recent years, he has taken to recording every single public performance, so there’s is a vast and growing music horde as yet unreleased.
But dammit if he isn’t worth the shelf space, and here’s another buried treasure to prove it. It’s easy to forget, now that his influence has so thoroughly permeated contemporary piano playing, just how fresh and original Jarrett sounded when he emerged in the late 1960s, and that sound – joyous and liberated, tender and fierce – is present from the opening notes of this marvelous live recording, made by German radio station NDR in June 1972. Just seven months previously, Jarrett had made his debut for Manfred Eicher’s new ECM label – a relationship that endures to this day – with the era defining solo recording Facing
Hamburg ’72 opens in a similar vein – just Jarrett and a piano, fugue-like and contemplative. But when bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian enter, Jarrett’s delicate introspection opens wide and out pours some of the most exhilarating piano trio music ever committed to tape.
Jarrett’s relationship with these two masters of their respective instruments was to be profound and long-lasting (ending finally with Haden’s passing earlier this year), but Hamburg ‘72 is a document from the springtime of their romance, three young musicians (Jarrett was just 27, Motian the eldest at 42) in love with the possibilities of music, flinging themselves into the unknown, reaching for new sounds and new horizons.
If you are coming fresh to, yes, the greatest piano player of the modern era, Hamburg ‘72 is as good a place to start as any. If, on the other hand, you already own every other Jarrett record, no further inducement will be necessary.
But it might be time to build another shelf. propermusic.com