Noah Haidu ft. Buster Williams, Billy Hart – Slowly: Song For Keith Jarrett
(Sunnyside Records, SSC 1596 . Album review by Mike Collins)
A piano trio album subtitled Song for Keith Jarrett might conjure certain expectations, Jarrett’s Standards Trio is surely a defining bench mark for a sound and approach to playing collectively after all. Noah Haidu is his own man however, and the company he keeps in this trio are themselves giants with Buster Williams no less on bass, and Billy Hart on drums.
Slowly is, then, a very personal and individual response to the music of Keith Jarrett by Haidu and his collaborators, rather than an overt attempt to sound like the dedicatee or one of his bands. There are two Haidu compositions, the title track which is a solo piano piece and Keith Jarrett a rocking gospely number; just one Jarrett original, intriguingly Rainbow from the American Quartet period frequently credited to Margot Jarrett; a Williams composition and two from Billy Hart; a sprinkling of classic standards, What a Difference a Day Makes, Georgia and But Beautiful.
Haidu’s playing is consistently thoughtful and considered. Space, chordal movement and rhythmic phrases are used to build momentum and tension as much as blizzards of notes. Air Dancing, the opener penned by Williams is a moody waltz, and Haidu skitters and weaves through the harmony then reaches a climax stated boldly with angular moving chords. Hart’s Duchess has an even driving groove with a theme that’s sketched out by harmony and then Haidu’s solo builds patiently starting with attractive melodic lines and William’s bass weaving a fluent counterpoint. The trio establish an effortless swing groove on the What a Difference a Day Makes and now Haidu piles melodic and rhythmic patterns on top of each other as they mine the depths of the musical material together.
There’s a palpable sense of feeling, emotion and commitment about this recording which is compelling. Haidu explains that the focus of the album was prompted by Jarrett’s announcement that he was withdrawing from performance whilst personal circumstances also heightened the emotion for Haidu. Recorded with collaborators of the stature of Williams and Hart, in between lockdowns in Autumn 2020, the unfussy arrangements and quality of communication give the set an affecting immediacy.
The final track is But Beautiful, taken at slow ballad tempo. The deceptively, tense and simple rendering of the theme put me in mind of Jarrett’s solo album ‘The Melody At Night With You’, arguably him at his most stripped back and unbearably vulnerable. It’s a standout moment on this album and a fitting and personal tribute.
Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman
Categories: Album review