Of the great piano trios in jazz, only one has stayed together for 30 years (and counting). Most revered trios (Evans/LaFaro/Motian, Peterson/Brown/Ellis) became iconic in retrospect, because they were gone before people fully realized their importance. Pianist Keith Jarrett’s trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette has the opposite problem. It has been with us so long some people take it for granted. You may think you have all you need from this trio. Then you hear how Jarrett touches a melody with bare hesitations that make “Stars Fell on Alabama” unique in its poignancy, and you know you need more.
The new album is valuable for how it blends Jarrett’s two formats, which are normally separate: fully improvised solo concerts and trio interpretations of standards. Somewhere opens with a solo improvisation called “Deep Space,” clusters of fragments that hover and slowly turn, chiming and catching the light. Then Peacock’s bass comes in under Jarrett and sets the piece into motion, and soon you realize that the fragments have begun to coalesce and suggest form. By 5:41 the form is clearly Miles Davis’ “Solar,” and for almost 10 more minutes Jarrett pursues a vast unfolding in which “Solar” is a distant referential mantra. By the end, he has returned to the crystalline clusters of “Deep Space,” which now contain manifestations of “Solar.”
The title track undergoes a similar creative process. “Somewhere” in the beginning is as careful yet exposed as a prayer. Then Jarrett begins to stray from it. His left-hand drone eventually turns this most ephemeral of Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim songs into a pagan ritual called “Everywhere.”
Bernstein and Sondheim wrote “Tonight” about exhilaration. Jarrett makes it about ecstasy. The closing “I Thought About You” was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer. In jazz it belongs to Miles Davis, and therefore returns the album to where it began. Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette play it for five minutes only but discover and interweave thoughts from three lifetimes.