After the Fall (ECM)
Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette
Released March 2, 2018
AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2018
DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review
In the course of its 30-year lifespan the trio of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette – the group colloquially known as “the Standards trio” – made many outstanding recordings. And After The Fall, overflowing with sparkling playing and dynamic interaction, must rank with the very best of them.
“I was amazed to hear how well the music worked,” says Keith Jarrett. “For me, it’s not only a historical document, but a truly great concert.” This performance – in Newark, New Jersey in November 1998 – marked Jarrett’s return to the stage after a two year hiatus. In fact, this concert was the first Jarrett had played since the 1996 Italian solo performances issued as A Multitude of Angels. In terms of the trio’s discography, it slots into the history before Whisper Not, recorded the following summer, and is thus the precursor of this group’s distinguished second period, where they seemed to find new freedoms both inside and beyond the world of jazz standards.
“We don’t bother with concepts, or theory, or maintaining some image,” Gary Peacock told Jazz Times a few years ago. “That’s of no concern whatsoever. So what that leaves is: everything. It leaves the music. Once you get to that point where you don’t feel like you have to make a statement anymore, you enter a space of enormous freedom.”
Together with improvising partners Peacock and DeJohnette, Jarrett glides and soars through classics of the Great American Songbook including “The Masquerade Is Over”, “Autumn Leaves”, “When I Fall In Love” and “I’ll See You Again”; they create their own music inside these familiar forms. Pete La Roca’s “One for Majid”, which would become a staple of the trio’s concerts in the 21st century, gets a sprightly treatment and sets the scene for a surprisingly boisterous, grooving version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, a chestnut which once attracted the attention of Paul Bley and Bill Evans. This in turn is followed by a rare Jarrett exploration of a Coltrane theme, as “Moment’s Notice” lifts the trio into a new energetic space.
There are also breath-taking accounts of hallowed bebop tunes including Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From The Apple”, Bud Powell’s “Bouncin’ With Bud” and Sonny Rollins’s “Doxy”. “Scrapple” is especially exhilarating, with dizzying right hand sprays of notes from Jarrett, magically detailed by DeJohnette’s speeding cymbals, leading to rapid-fire exchanges between piano and drums. In his liner note, Jarrett reflects on the choice of material for this ‘experimental’ comeback concert. “I told the guys in the trio that for me bebop might be the best idea, although it required great technique, I didn’t think I needed to play as hard as I sometimes did…”
Ballads are also played with great tenderness. Paul Desmond’s “Late Lament” becomes a deep meditation, with Gary Peacock playing beautifully beneath Jarrett’s austere extension of the melody. “When I Fall In Love”, a favourite encore choice, is a as touching here as it has ever been.
“These songs have a soul that can be found,” Keith Jarrett once said. Few will disagree that the trio locate it, repeatedly, on After The Fall.
1. The Masquerade Is Over (Herb Magidson / Allie Wrubel) 15:49
2. Scrapple From the Apple (Charlie Parker) 08:46
3. Old Folks (Dedette Lee Hill / Willard Robison) 09:23
4. Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosma / Johnny Mercer / Jacques Prévert) 13:17
1. Bouncin’ With Bud (Walter Fuller / Bud Powell) 10:01
2. Doxy (Sonny Rollins) 08:47
3. I’ll See You Again (Noël Coward) 07:48
4. Late Lament (Paul Desmond) 04:58
5. One for Majid (Pete La Roca) 06:47
6. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (J. Fred Coots / Haven Gillespie) 07:47
7. Moment’s Notice (John Coltrane) 06:41
8. When I Fall in Love (Edward Heyman / Victor Young) 05:35
Keith Jarrett: piano
Gary Peacock: double bass
Jack DeJohnette: drums
Recorded Live November 14, 1998, at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark, New Jersey
Producer: Keith Jarrett
Engineer: Alain Leduc
Mastering: Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Design: Bernd Kuchenbeiser
Executive Producer: Manfred Eicher
In recent years, pianist Keith Jarrett and ECM have collaborated in releasing varied, important recordings from his performance and private archives. After the Fall, recorded with his iconic “standards trio” with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, is another. Recorded at a concert in Newark, New Jersey in November 1998, it exists in the space between the group’s Tokyo ’96 (1997) and Whisper Not (1999). This performance marked Jarrett’s return to the stage after a two-year battle with chronic fatigue syndrome. This particular concert was the first Jarrett performed since the 1996 Italian solo performances issued as A Multitude of Angels in 2016.
This double disc isn’t merely a compelling historical document, it is an exemplary concert full of inspired readings of classic jazz tunes ranging from the the Great American Songbook through bebop and John Coltrane. Disc one’s opener, a 15-plus-minute reading of Allie Wrubel and Herb Magidson’s “The Masquerade Is Over,” is astonishing. Jarrett kicks it off with a sensitive re-imagining of its melody and harmony, but when DeJohnette enters with his brushes, it begins to shift until it breaks through to hard-swinging post-bop. They follow it with a bright, impassioned take on Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple from the Apple” with Jarrett offering plenty of right-hand fireworks. As DeJohnette finds new rhythmic lanes in the tune, Peacock opens spaces inside the changes and swings them through. After an arresting balance of communication and physicality on the nearly ten-minute ballad “Old Folks” — featuring a gorgeous Peacock solo — they close the first set out with a sprightly, harmonically lush, and rhythmically diverse version of “Autumn Leaves,” full of deft exchanges between the players that last nearly 14 minutes.
Disc two returns to bop with a long, joyous reading of Bud Powell’s “Bouncin’ with Bud” and Sonny Rollins’ blues-drenched “Doxy.” Noel Coward’s ballad “I’ll See You Again” is a vehicle for the close communication between these players — note DeJohnette’s syncopated flourishes and Peacock’s brilliant solo as Jarrett expands the harmonics to showcase the improvisational potential in popular song. They follow with a haunted read of Paul Desmond’s exquisite vehicle for melodic improvisation in “Late Lament,” before shifting back to bluesy bop with Pete La Roca’s “One for Majid,” boasting another smoking Peacock solo. While jazzmen have offered “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” before, none have ever delivered it with this much drama and fleet articulation. Jarrett almost hammers the changes while simultaneously embellishing them with taut middle-register arpeggios. Oddly, it sets the stage perfectly for Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice,” rendered with bop intensity and knotty swing. After the Fall could have ended there, but thankfully doesn’t: the whispering shimmer of “When I Fall in Love” brings the performance back to earth, closing one of this trio’s great recorded performances. It sounds as exhilarating and thrilling today as it did two decades ago.
Thom Jurek (AllMusic)