Jarrett Haden Motian Hamburg '72This raw, fiery record of Jarrett’s trio at full pelt captures such a rare unfettered spirit that it almost feels historic.

Label: ECM
Time: 6 tracks / 55mins

When bassist Charlie Haden died last autumn, much was said about his ability to use gaps, and the underlying impression left was of a reliable, seasoned and experienced team anchor.

Back in 1972, he was already sensitive to the direction of his band mates, if more zealous than in his later years. This previously unreleased German radio show feels like a historical record that captures the trio, which had been together for five years at this stage, well attuned to one another, but also free and excited to find out how far they can go in exhilarating invention.

We can imagine them creating the set list, starting with “Rainbow,” a comfortable opener of conventional improvisation around the theme. It starts easily, to settle the audience in, with Jarrett’s right hand in particular on form – fluid and increasingly adventurous. The following “Everything that Lives Laments” ends in similarly cultured fashion, as Jarrett slows down to a refined wander across the keys.

In between, however, some de-rigueur boundary-pushing fires a warning shot of what is to come. Jarrett picks up the flute for an eastern-sounding section. He continues his wind-blowing with some wild soprano sax in “Piece for Ornette”, but – however technically impressive – it is somewhat squawky. The track evolves, but Motian is always strong here, with robust rhythms keeping the piece intact.

“Take me Back” is built on the sort of rippling, funky, American-sounding groove that Herbie Hancock would use. And Jarrett is flying. As it slows down, it turns into “Life, Dance,” almost a fragment at under three minutes, when everything else is well over eight. It is the sort of piece that could easily have been expanded into something more substantial, but its unfussy style is endearing.

The show ends on the fifteen-minute Haden piece, “Song for Che,” where everyone gets a turn to shine. Before he resumes piano, Jarrett’s sax work is emotionally charged, with enjoyable oriental timbres, sometimes more restrained than earlier, leading to a climax on piano. Haden employs a range of techniques and both Jarrett and Motian bookend the piece with watery percussion behind his bass.  

The set’s exploratory spirit is remarkable. This is a trio with a significant knack for knowing where each other are going – all the more noteworthy, given the avant-garde interludes and generally frenetic pace of some sections. It takes some getting used to, but then pays off.

Some of the more outlandish sax sections feel somewhat dated, as the trio – and followers in their wake – have refined their exploratory tendencies, but this raw, fiery record of Jarrett’s trio at full pelt captures such a rare unfettered spirit that it almost feels historic.

Derek Walker

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