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January/February 2008

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette
My Foolish Heart
ECM Records

Keith Jarrett tends to divide listeners into two camps: the cult and everyone else. For those who aren’t sure where they belong, the pianist’s latest double disc is a good place to start. Everything about My Foolish Heart—from the time-tested material (13 jazz and pop standards) to the tasteful accompaniment (courtesy of bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette)—serves to highlight Jarrett’s pluses and minuses. On the positive side, this live recording from the 2001 Montreux Jazz Festival features some gorgeous piano work. Jarrett’s soulful reimaginings of several Tin Pan Alley ballads, such as “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry” and “Only the Lonely,” will no doubt remind listeners why the pianist once sold records like a rock artist (1975’s The Köln Concert). Jarrett has a true gift for synthesizing romanticism, gospel and blues into an improvisational language that is both serious and accessible. Unfortunately, though, he can also be a difficult presence. Jarrett’s vocal seepage is legendary and, on My Foolish Heart, the moaning often accompanies performances that feel rushed and, as a result, overly dense. Jarrett’s opening notes on the first track, Miles Davis’ “Four,” suggest a musician who is in a hurry to show off his chops, race to the next number, or both. It’s an inauspicious beginning to an album that reveals more elegance and grace with each repeat listen. That won’t mean much to the folks who never make it past the opening track, but those who do will be compensated for their patience.

Originally published in January/February 2008
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