By Grant Larson
Pianist Keith Jarrett and bassist Charlie Haden are two stalwarts in the 21st century jazz community. They have been playing and recording for nearly the past 50 years. Although they have not recorded together with much frequency in recent years, Last Dance is a testament to the musical connection that two close friends can produce.
The impetus for choosing this album is twofold:
1) I love listening to Keith Jarrett’s creativity, and
2) this discussion is to serve as a tribute to Charlie Haden, given his recent passing earlier this summer.
Last Dance (ECM 2399) was released by ECM records on June 13 of this year. It features nine standards that were taken from a recording session at Jarrett’s home in March 2007. In all actuality, Last Dance is a follow-up to the ECM release, Jasmine, a recording taken from that same March 2007 session. Overall the playing on Last Dance is lyrical, heartfelt, and touching.
The first two tunes on the album, My Old Flame and My Ship, set the mood of the album. Neither improviser stretches all that far, harmonically or thematically. However, the listener can hear the immediate connection between these two musicians. Haden plays just the right amount behind Jarrett’s simple interpretation of My Ship, never interfering, yet providing ample support. His sound is robust with a clean attack. Jarrett’s improvisations on these first two tracks are simply enjoyable. His musical statements serve the lyrical quality of the original melodies, and he does not ramble on, helping to provide strength and clarity to his lines.
Monk’s Round Midnight serves as the best canvas for improvisation on this album, and is followed by Bud Powell’s Dance of the Infidels. This tune is a welcomed contrast to the reserved nature of the previous three. It is fun to listen to Jarrett’s bebop lines, and his use of chromaticism is tasteful and reminiscent of Bud Powell himself.
I am not usually bothered by Jarrett’s extracurricular vocalizations, but his singing/humming tends to distract from the beautiful playing on It Might as Well Be Spring. The duo’s allusion to a double-time feel is tasteful and propels the tune along.
Cole Porter’s Every Time We Say Goodbye and Gordon Jenkin’s Goodbye are fitting tunes to end the album. Nowhere else is the emotional connection so strong as it is throughout Goodbye. One has to wonder if these two friends knew that their opportunities to perform together were numbered. While listening, I can’t help but reflect on the many albums that I love featuring the genius of Charlie Haden. His musicianship is on display throughout Last Dance, and the musical connection between Jarrett and Haden make this album an enjoyable listen.
Albums from the past 365 will feature re-occurring commentary on jazz albums that have been released within the past 365 days. Grant Larson is a saxophonist and educator in the Boulder-Denver, CO area. He can be heard on the Dazzle Recordings label.