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November 2002

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette
Always Let Me Go
ECM Records

These guys have been at it as a trio for just about 20 years, and after woodshedding on stage with the standards material for most of that time, they have finally decided to take the gloves off and come out fighting. Actually, there have been hints at Jarrett's proclivity for inspired improvised free playing on many of the Standards Trio dates, as well as a couple of less formulaic releases along the way. Then the trio's last recording, Inside Out, made this statement, in so many words: "We're gonna play what feels right to us and the standards don't do it right now." And so, "out" it was.

Out is also the prevailing wind on the two-CD Always Let Me Go: Live in Tokyo. But what is most captivating about this virtuosic tour de force is the way this trio can, on a dime, turn outside in, pulling a melody and structure from thin air, usually at just the right moment, bringing everything back to earth with a bit of bluesy funk, a bit of wistful romanticism, a slice of bop or swing. "Hearts of Space," for example, starts just as the title implies, but by the time it concludes Peacock is driving things with a walking bass, DeJohnette is purring along while still dropping those amazing bombs and Jarrett is rolling and swaying as tidily as Monk, doing that thing with melody that stretches or compresses the line like a rubber band-note values distorted while maintaining absolute form and proportion.

The two discs are marvelously recorded, as always, and give ample room for all three to hold the spotlight: DeJohnette has never sounded so sophisticatedly primitive or Peacock so strong, so melodic, all while exploring that territory of intuition so well-known to Jarrett who, it seems, has managed to locate another 30 or 40 keys on his piano.

Magic, madness, talent or genius? Inside or out? When you get to this level, it just doesn't matter.

Originally published in November 2002
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