Creating an album that summons up the singular musical vision of Keith Jarrett is a Herculean task, especially for a fellow piano player. Making one at a height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as pianist Noah Haidu did, adds 10 more labors at least. Haidu, an established Brooklyn pianist with a soft touch on the ivories and only a handful of recordings under his own name, teamed with master drummer Billy Hart (who performs in Haidu’s working trio) and bassist Buster Williams for the date. With this powerhouse lineup, Haidu effectively creates his own incarnation of Jarrett’s legendary “Standards Trio” with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette.
This group might not wield the same otherworldly command over melody that the Standards Trio does, but the members do leave their mark on each other’s originals and (of course) standards. Haidu takes a plush approach to the Hart composition “Duchess,” weaving chordal figures into both melody and solo that accentuate his central ideas; Williams adds a rich, sumptuous solo. The trio addresses the album’s handful of standards with similar respect but even more loving tenderness, notably that old sweet song “Georgia.” Hart’s brushes create a feather-bed foundation for Haidu’s fingers to sink into, and Williams’ bass rustles by like a sweet summer breeze; it all captures the idyllic promise of the South so well. Haidu steps away from the trio to perform the title track, a buoyant, tranquil solo dedicated to Jarrett’s solo works.
All of the elements—musicians, compositions, emotions, and timbres—resonate well throughout, but something always feels a little off. Jarrett routinely told his audiences that he was only able to summon forth such majesty on stage because of them; that’s especially true on the Standards Trio’s live recordings, as the intensity surges with the delight of the crowd. Without that live energy, and undoubtedly with the damper of COVID, Slowly cannot reach a higher potential.