Hour 21 Small Group Settings of Chick Corea & Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea emerged from the 60s among the best pianists of their generation. Recording steadily over the next five decades, they are iconic masters in many musical formats, particularly notable for their small ensemble work. As time has gone on, Jarrett has focussed on solo recordings and recordings in a trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, mostly live. While Corea records in a rich variety of settings, his best work is arguably in the intimate settings of duos and trios. Recent projects from piano titans Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea in this hour of Jazz at 100 Today!

Keith Jarrett Solo
Keith Jarrett began recording solo performances for ECM with his release Facing You in 1972. His 1975 release, The Koln Concert, is famously the disc that made possible the powerhouse ECM label we know today. For over forty years, Jarrett has performed solo improvised piano concerts to great acclaim, almost two dozen of them being captured on disc in a critically acclaimed series.

In reviewing Jarrett’s 2009 release Paris / London – Testament for AllAboutJazz, John Kelman described the series, “…there are a number of defining markers that can be expected in almost any Jarrett performance: oblique and often dramatic classicism; the occasional overt jazz reference, often via bop-inflected lines and even the occasional stride reference; tender, economical lyricsm; hints of gospel, Americana and blues; and hypnotic, ostinato-based soloing. In the hands of almost any other pianist, having such well-defined stylistic signposts might result in redundancy, but it’s a testament to Jarrett’s remarkable talent that each performance sounds fresh; distanced from each other but coming, unmistakably, from a single voice.” The three-disc set concludes with with London Part XII, a very hopeful gospel groove. Jarrett’s 2011 release of concert in Rio de Janiero includes in Part IX “as funky and straightforward a blues as he’s ever played”.

London, December 1, 2008, Pt. XII. Keith Jarrett solo
(Keith Jarrett-p). From Paris / London – Testament. ECM. 2009.
Rio Part XI. Keith Jarrett solo
(Keith Jarrett-p). From Rio. ECM. 2011.

Chick Corea has thrived over the years in the intimate setting of a single collaborator. His landmark 1972 release Crystal Silence announced the beginning of what is now almost 50 years of music-making with vibraphonist Gary Burton. In half a dozen duo releases and countless concerts, the pair has shown, in the words of John Kelman, a “seemingly effortless ability to draw music from external sources into their own complex yet accessible musical universe.” Their most recent effort was the 2012 release Hot House, including a quirky version of Monk’s Light Blue.

Corea has recorded frequently in duo piano settings before, beginning with 1978’s An Evening with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea: In Concert. In 2011, he recorded the wide-ranging live disc Orvieto with Stephano Bollani. Of their version of Fats Waller’s evergreen Jitterbug Waltz, John Kelman wrote, “[It] has rarely sounded this alive, swinging with unfettered energy as they effortlessly move between individual and in-tandem soloing; then again, given these performances’ unrelenting spontaneity, it’s less about the individual and more about the collective, which moves with unconstrained freedom amidst the loosely defined structures.”

Among his jazz recordings in the past forty years, Keith Jarrett’s only departure from solo and trio efforts are his duo explorations with bassist Charlie Haden. Home-recorded in a March 2007 session, this sublime music has been released on 2010’s Jasmine and 2014’s Last Dance which was released just before Haden’s death in July 2014. Of the latter disc, John Kelman wrote, “Haden demonstrates his usual unerring ability to find the absolutely perfect note—played with equally impeccable tone—whether it’s in the spare yet ambling swing of his support for Jarrett’s solo on the mid-tempo Everything Happens to Me or his own more intrinsically lyrical feature later in the same song; there’s never a note wasted or a note out of place. As for Jarrett, while his career has been predicated on both virtuosity and an ability to spontaneously pull music from the ether, and as consistently superb as his solo and Standards Trio work has been over the past three decades, here in this context, he’s never sounded so relaxed, so unfettered in a way that’s different from his inimitable freedom in live performance.”

Light Blue. Chick Corea – Gary Burton duo
(Chick Corea-p, Gary Burton-vib). From Hot House. Concord Jazz. 2012.
Everything Happens To Me. Keith Jarrett – Charlie Haden duo
(Keith Jarrett-p, Charlie Haden-b). From Last Dance. ECM. 2014.
Jitterbug Waltz. Chick Corea – Stefano Bollani duo
(Chick Corea-p, Stefano Bollani-p). From Orvieto. ECM. 2011.

Chick Corea made his mark with the 1968 trio recording Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, with Miroslav Vitous on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. While he has returned to the trio format many times in the past fifty years, his working trio of the past decade, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, is one of his best. His release, Trilogy, received the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Recording. Their 2019 follow-up Trilogy 2 was another critical success. The trio’s reading of Joe Henderson’s Recorda Me illustrates both Corea’s effervescent and buoyant pianism and the trio’s remarkable capacity for collective interaction and dialog.

The trio of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette has been recording together since 1983 documenting a significant slice of the Great American Songbook. Of their take on Leonard Bernstein’s lovely ballad, John Kelman writes “Tonight is taken at an unexpectedly bright clip. Peacock and DeJohnette swing more directly this time, with Jarrett’s effortless motivic invention keeping secure his position in the upper echelon of improvising pianists.”

Recorda Me. Chick Corea Trio
(Chick Corea-p, Christian McBride-b, Brian Blade-d). From Trilogy. Concord Jazz. 2014.
Tonight. Keith Jarrett – Gary Peacock – Jack DeJohnette Trio
Keith Jarrett-p, Gary Peacock-b, Jack DeJohnette-d). From Somewhere. ECM. 2013.

While Chick Corea shows no signs of slowing down and still performs with enthusiasm and joy, Keith Jarrett is no longer able to perform and play. After last performing publicly at Carnegie Hall in February 2017, one of the great pianists in modern jazz is now silent. In a 2020 interview with Nate Chinen, Jarrett disclosed that a stroke in 2018 makes it unlikely that he will ever perform in public again. His extensive catalog will stand as a record of a truly remarkable combination of talent and drive.

Kelman, John. (2009, September 29). AllAboutJazz. Keith Jarrett: Testament – Paris / London. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/keith-jarrett-testament-paris-london-by-john-kelman.php

Kelman, John. (2011, November 15). AllAboutJazz. Keith Jarrett: Rio. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/rio-keith-jarrett-ecm-records-review-by-john-kelman.php

Kelman, John. (2012, March 28). AllAboutJazz. Chick Corea & Gary Burton: Hot House. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/hot-house-chick-corea-concord-records-review-by-john-kelman.php

Kelman, John. (2014, June 10). AllAboutJazz. Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden: Last Dance. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/keith-jarrett-charlie-haden-last-dance-by-john-kelman.php

Kelman, John. (2010, May 18). AllAboutJazz. Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden: Jasmine. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/jasmine-keith-jarrett-ecm-records-review-by-john-kelman.php

Kelman, John. (2011, September 11). AllAboutJazz. Chick Corea / Stefano Bollani: Orvieto. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/orvieto-chick-corea-ecm-records-review-by-john-kelman.php

Kelman, John. (2014, September 2). AllAboutJazz. Chick Corea Trio: Trilogy. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/chick-corea-trio-trilogy-by-john-kelman.php

Worsley, Jim. (2019, October 3). AllAboutJazz. Chick Corea Trio: Trilogy 2. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/trilogy-2-chick-corea-concord-records-review-by-jim-worsley.php

Kelman, John. (2013, May 1). AllAboutJazz. Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack Dejohnette: Somewhere. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/somewhere-keith-jarrett-ecm-records-review-by-john-kelman.php

Chinen, Nate. (2020, October 21). The New York Times. Keith Jarrett Confronts a Future Without the Piano. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/arts/music/keith-jarrett-piano.html

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