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Various Artists: As Long as You’re Living Yours: The Music of Keith Jarrett

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Record companies are always looking for a hook, anything to make their product stand out in a crowded marketplace. This may explain the number of theme projects and tribute discs in recent years. Every now and then, one of these tributes not only contains worthwhile music, but also encourages a reassessment of the artist being celebrated. Keith Jarrett is mainly thought of as a brilliant pianist, improviser and critical provocateur. This new tribute reminds us he’s also an important composer.

Despite its weaker tracks, this CD works. Among the positives: Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes engages baritone saxophonist Jay Rodriguez in an exuberant montuno on “U Dance,” and saxophonist George Garzone flies through the changes and trades eight-bar breaks with drummer Bob Gullotti on “Innocence.” Mike Mainieri plays a shimmering overdubbed percussion duet with himself on “Starbright” and clarinetist Don Byron gets telepathic with bassist Drew Gress on “Somewhere Before.”

Among the 13 tracks are a few clunkers, including Bruce Hornsby’s ham-handed piano solo, which weighs down the funky, New Orleans-inspired “Backhand,” and saxophonist Jimmy Green’s duet with Lord Jamar on “The Cure,” which suffers from unimaginative drum programming.

Perhaps the biggest annoyance is the irritating recording quality on a number of tracks. Valdes’ piano sounds great, but Rodriguez’s baritone sounds as though it was recorded in a broom closet. D.D. Jackson’s piano bench should probably get a credit, since it creaks so much throughout his solo piece, and the classical strings played by the Flux Quartet and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg have a strident sound that comes from close-miking. Here’s a clue for engineers: if you can hear a violinist’s nasal breathing, the microphone is too close.