CD REVIEW: Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden / Paul Motian – Hamburg ‘72

Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden / Paul Motian – Hamburg ‘72
(ECM 470 4256. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Pianist Keith Jarrett found fame early in life, initially with Charles Lloyd in the mid-60s. When this concert was taped at the NDR Funkhaus in Hamburg on 14th June 1972, his trio with bass player Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian had existed for six years, recorded three albums for Atlantic Records, and was already at a creative peak. Jarrett was still only 27 years old.

After a hint of “When You Wish upon a Star” during a lyrical, unaccompanied opening, the piano coalesces with splashing cymbals and Rainbow (which is credited to Jarrett’s then-wife, Margot) becomes a lightly swinging and relatively mainstream affair. Haden is only briefly heard, and – until Jarrett’s luminous eruptions at the end of the piece – we only get a taste of the riches in store.

The next four selections are by Jarrett. Everything That Lives Laments is notable partly because – in addition to piano – Jarrett plays (frequently over-blown) flute, and Motian shakes bells and chimes. Haden is highlighted before retreating into a group improvisation that is clearly more than a random free-for-all; these men know each other well and really communicate. The tune ends tenderly, with Jarrett back on piano and Motian at the drums.

Piece for Ornette bursts with energy and evokes Coleman’s urgent, piano-less style. Jarrett uses soprano saxophone with a raw, vocalised timbre. Chattering, shrieking and stuttering with wayward abandon, his dialogue with a highly-charged Motian builds in intensity and becomes a thrilling, passionate exchange. Eventually, Haden steps between them, as if he’s engaging calmness and reason to break up a screaming row. After this, it’s hard to imagine that Jarrett – in little over a decade – would be leading a very different trio with a repertoire concentrating on old jazz standards.

Take Me Back is reminiscent of Jarrett’s stunning ECM début (the solo “Facing You”) that came a few months before this concert. A simple, rising piano figure gradually develops into a gospelly, rocking section that is so emotive and life-affirming that you may well jump up from your sofa and yell “oh yeah” at the speakers. Then – several wonderful minutes later – the melody is stated, and you realise that you’ve just been listening to the introduction! This is quintessential Jarrett, and Motian’s unusually hard-hitting approach is absolutely right for this music.

Haden’s solo on the rhapsodic and relatively diffuse Life, Dance is barely over when Song for Che begins, and familiar drones and double-stops mingle with allusions to his country roots. Jarrett moves from soprano sax to the piano for a climax that is distinguished by dramatic, hymnal cadences, and Haden ends his iconic composition to an accompaniment of fluttery percussion. The audience goes mad; if they were fortunate enough to get more, we don’t hear it.

Hamburg ’72 is so good that words are barely sufficient to convey its impact. It contains some of the most exciting jazz you will ever experience, and there is no question about it being one of the records of the year.

Categories: miscellaneous

3 replies »

  1. Isn't KJ's ECM discography far too big already? Two of Paul Motian's most interesting trio albums for ECM were his studio recordings with Charles Brackeen. What chance of a CD release of a live performance by the Motian/Brackeen/Izenzon trio (e.g. their brilliant concert in Bremen on 13 September 1977)? Brackeen (unlike Jarrett) can really play the soprano saxophone.

  2. Last sunday, 15/02/2015 I bought a cd called Hamburg Concert 1972. Released on the A Jazz Hour With.. label. This is a 2 cd set with the full concert in excellent sound quality. I paid only €5,- for it. Nice cover and short sleeve notes but it's the complete concert!! Can't find much about this release on the web. Seems Amazon Japan is the only that sells it. Guess it's an Italian cd.

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