In 2009 Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio began its second quarter-century, but this new title comes from 2001. It was recorded live at Metropolitan Festival Hall in Tokyo.
The creative consistency and scale of Jarrett’s discography with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette is unprecedented among piano trios in the history of jazz. Individual albums are like chapters, gathered into one vast narrative from points distant in time and space, differentiated by shifts in atmosphere or details of emphasis.
Yesterdays is characterized by extremes of dynamic and emotional range. Horace Silver’s “Strollin'” and two Charlie Parker lines, “Shaw ‘Nuff” and “Scrapple From the Apple,” are light-hearted, even jocular. But they are still imposing. “Shaw ‘Nuff” is taken at warp speed. Jarrett’s “Scrapple” is like no other, tilting and teetering crazily but staying upright. Then there is “You Took Advantage of Me,” a rather silly, dated ditty by Rodgers and Hart. It becomes the most ambitious undertaking here, 10 minutes of exhaustive spontaneous research. Then there are the ballads.
They are “You’ve Changed,” “Yesterdays” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” in ascending order of resonant stillness. Jarrett’s technical facility and this trio’s ability to manage complexity while swinging so hard they seem to levitate have diverted attention from the ballads for 25 years. But Jarrett displays extraordinary patience with ballads. He does not so much play “Yesterdays.” He listens as it occurs to him, in lovely isolated fragments. On “Smoke,” he appends his own introduction, one whispered, rapt, incantatory chord movement. Then he intermittently releases the famous melody, embellishing it as it spills, revealing a dignity of emotional exposure no one ever suspected was there.
In Gary Peacock, Jarrett has a rare bassist who can take up the story without breaking the spell.