17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Acoustic Jazz at its best,
This review is from: Setting Standards: New York Sessions (Audio CD)
I got the CD set from Germany a couple of days ago where it has already been released. The box set is part of ECM's new series of reissues (Old & New Masters). If subsequent titles in that series are of similar quality, then music lovers are indeed in for a treat. As one would expect from ECM, the set design is stylish and the accompanying booklet, which includes some additional photos and an essay by music critic Peter Ruedi about Jarrett, exudes pure class.
Design aside, it is, of course, the music that matters. The set consists of three albums that Jarrett recorded with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack deJohnette in the 1980s. The association between the three musicians was at first rather loose, but subsequently developed into one of the most critically acclaimed and successful acoustic jazz bands. On the first two CDs Jarrett exclusively plays standards from the Great American songbook (previously issued on ECM as Standards vol I & II), whereas the third CD comprises three longer originals by Jarrett.
Interestingly, Jarrett approached the Great American Songbook at a time when Wynton Marsalis et al. were extolling the virtue of conservatism in jazz. However, Jarrett's interpretation of the great jazz standards is anything but conservative. The music sounds fresh, sophisticated, original, and, as is often the case with Jarrett, 'searching'. This is largely due to Peacock and deJohnette, two open-minded and communicative players (these lads can improvise), who harmonise and interact perfectly with the pianist. The mutual understanding and almost telepathic communication between the players is joy and gives the music depth and complexity akin to chamber music. Typical ECM. It is not surprising that this band has been together for well over 25 years now and that its progress, especially in concert, has been so well documented.
There is a difference between the concerts and these studio recordings, though. The remastered studio recordings in the current box set have a much better sound quality than any of the live albums I have heard . That means something, given that we are considering ECM standard here. As the Ruedi's liner notes point out, no matter how good the acoustics in a concert hall are, something always gets lost. I have never owned any of the studio recordings by the trio and was pleasantly surprised by the richness and liveliness of sound found on these remastered CDs. Though I own most of the live albums, this box set opens up a whole new dimension of music. Yet one note of caution is necessary: the sound is fantastic, but that means that the noises Jarrett makes while playing are quite audible too (particularly on CD I). If you find that off-putting, listen first before you buy. But otherwise this is a fantastic piece of improvised music. It sure sets a 'standard' for acoustic jazz.