Concert recording, April 1979, Tokyo
It is very much out of character for the prolific Keith Jarrett and his producer Manfred Eicher to hold anything back, yet they've done it here, releasing these live tapes of Jarrett's European quartet ten years after they were recorded. Presumably, they did it in order not to distract attention from Nude Ants, which was recorded a week after these concerts, but that never stopped them before from just piling on more discs. In any case, these Tokyo recordings were too good to hide; the quartet had reached an interactive creative high around this time, often burning at the rarified level that Nude Ants reached. Jarrett is both lyrically effusive and able to ignite his European colleagues into giving him more swinging support than on earlier sessions. In particular, the title track has a lot of the exploratory fervor of "New Dance" from Nude Ants, and "Late Night Willie" gets down deep into the Jarrett gospel feeling. Jan Garbarek is especially forthright in Tokyo on tenor, while his soprano pierces like a beam of sunlight, and Palle Danielsson (bass) and Jon Christensen (drums) are loose, relaxed, and impeccably recorded. Clearly this is one of the peaks of the European quartet's discography.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Art lives in and by the spirit of the present. At the same time, any art worthy of the name always deals with Utopia; with that which runs counter to the (literally) "prevailing ideas". It justifies the opposite of the status quo - those unfocused, inductive, desultory, seemingly unsystematic, weightless, temporary, risky, radical laws of the imagination. But, just as most Utopias tell us more about the intellectual climate in which they were conceived than about the future, so, too, can art never escape from its own time. Utopia, declares Ernst Bloch, "real ly amounts to nothing if it does not point to the now and seeks its scattered present". Art lives in and by the spirit of the present - improvised art in particular. But, to be aware of this, also requires an awareness of history. Whoever wishes to know how things are and how they might develop, must know how they were. Or, how artists of earlier times envisioned the future. We are what we became, and to look back is a form of self-recognition.
It is with art as it is with the erotic: nothing is more unattainable than that which we desire most urgently. Beauty is the reward of the unintended. Nothing ages more rapidly than art which strains towards immortality from the moment of inception. The most durable works grow out of the moment, are marked by it. And while they are linked to the moment, they are pledged to the future. There is no true work of art that is not primarily related to the present from which it arose; and none that is related only to the present.
The music on this record is ten years old and yet it is so fresh and new because it so accurately reflected its creators' awareness at the time. Now it may seem slightly exaggerated to construct a philosophy of history on a mere ten-year-period. But, first of all, we must remember that there has been a speed-up in development (an art critic recently pointed out that, while the nineteenth century managed to get along with three or four styles, today one has to deal with forty different trends, directions and styles in the years since World War II). Moreover, Keith Jarrett, that Proteus of improvised music, is powerfully driven by the wish to shed his skin, to change. Transformation is his constant desire.
The recordings presented here were made at a concert with his "European Quartet" in Tokyo - just one week before "Nude Ants" (the last double-album featuring Jarrett with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen) was recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York. It is safe to assume that this summit of Jarrett's ensemble work was not released earlier because it contains a few compositions that also appear on "Nude Ants". For today's listener, a comparison between the versions of "Oasis" and of "Innocence" is especially fascinating: they are utterly different. These are not "alternate takes". On the contrary: each version, although starting from the same premise, develops an entirely different concept. From the serene vantage point of a ten-year time lapse, it is even more obvious that the group "Belonging", named after its first album recorded in 1974, was one of the great quartets world-wide. In contrast to the quartets, like those led by Thelonious Monk decades earlier, where the excitement lay in the confrontation between Monk's strutting, gritty, almost spastic piano and the fluid sound of the reeds (whether the tenor player was Johnny Griffin or Charlie Rouse) - the collaboration of Jarrett and Garbarek involves two elective affinities. This is one reason why the quartet is so perfectly integrated. One could say that, compared to Jarrett's "American Quartet" with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian, this quartet offers less resistance and less friction; this includes the rhythm section - the web of Motian's agility and Haden' weightiness. But in the areas of tonal quality, nuance and finesse of intonation, the present offering achieves hitherto unrealized levels of subtlety. Jarrett and Garbarek share more than one bond. Their elective affinity has given rise to joint projects beyond the framework of the quartet: including music with parts written for large string ensemble - "Luminessence", "Arbour Zena" - a sense for the hymnic, for the grand design, for the expressive. Above all, both are deeply committed to the sensation of tone production - to sound as such. First influenced by the post-Coltrane avantgarde, Garbarek soon moved inexorably and rigorously towards a pure melodic concept -towards an unmistakable tone on both the tenor and the soprano saxophone. "When I hear Ellington ballads played by Johnny Hodges whom I admire a lot," he says, "I hear them exactly as they were written: no ornamentation, nothing. But they always sound like Johnny Hodges and no one else. It's impossible not to recognize him at once. That's what I am aiming for, too."
In the ten years following this recording, Keith Jarrett has kept moving. He has developed in extremely different directions: towards the art of interpretation for one thing (his highly praised, severely self-effacing "Well-Tempered Clavier"; and, soon there will be the "Goldberg Variations", also recorded in Japan). For another thing, there is the increasing refinement of what Jarrett calls the "tribal language" of his generation, the standards of the Great American Songbook (with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette as a trio). His "European Quartet" remains a milestone in his development - especially in the inspired form in which it is presented on this record. Jarrett's improvisations are, even for him, of extraordinary quality ("Prism"!). If we are to believe him when he says that he always plays especially well when things go badly for him, then the spring of 1979 must have been a difficult time, indeed.
This record is also a milestone for its producer. It was Manfred Eicher who actually initiated "Belonging". It is not his custom (I'd like to say: unfortunately) to resurrect productions that have been stored in the archives for years. This time, though, he is giving us, and himself, in celebration of ECM's 20th anniversary these recordings from the tenth year. They document the encounter between two musicians who have put their distinctive stamp on the label's program; who may well be considered representative of that very program.
-Peter Ruedi (translated by Maria Pelikan)