Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Lost Quartet

Until July 27, BBC 3 is featuring a long, illuminative interview of Keith Jarrett by fellow pianist Ethan Iverson. As noted by my colleague Peter Hum, the interview is most revealing on the topic of Jarrett's so-called "American Quartet," which lasted roughly from 1973 to 1977 with Paul Motian, Dewey Redman and Charlie Haden. Jarrett is quite open about the challenges the band presented to him (Redman was perpetually late and a notoriously poor music reader, and Haden was still in the throes of his injection-drug abuse) and his frustration that the quartet was only belatedly recognized for its achievements.

One thing Iverson doesn't touch on is just how hard it is to find much of the music the group recorded on eight albums. I've written about this before, but it deserves repeating that this vital music should be re-released in the best form possible. As Iverson notes, at one time—when he was a teenager—those Impulse! recordings were easy to come by in second-hand stores because, he speculates, so many people bought them on the basis of Jarrett's popular solo recording, The Köln Concert. My vinyl copies remain among the most-prized LPs of those I grew up listening to. I'd love to see them properly re-mastered and annotated by insightful listeners like Iverson and drummer George Schuller.


John Chacona said...

I completely concur, James. If you don't feel giddy after listening to numbers like "De Drums" or "Inflight," maybe you need an MRI. As for that latter cut, it's proof that Paul Motian can swing as hard as anybody, albeit in a way that sounds like nobody else. This was one of the bands that made me fall in love with jazz.

adam said...

isn't it all available on the two Impulse Box Sets?

James Hale said...

Yeah, you can piece them together through the boxes — and there is the extra live stuff from the Fort Yawuh sessions — but where is the full reissue treatment of the individual LPs, the way Sony/Legacy has done with Miles, etc.? Good sound, good notes...I want it all!

nick fraser said...

Hey, James. Yes, that quartet made some very serious (and seriously under-appreciated) music. I'm curious which albums you consider to be the "eight" you mention. The Impulse sides only? There are nine if you include "Treasure Island" (which also features Sam Brown). Also, "Birth" and "El Juicio" are on Atlantic, "Expectations" on Columbia plus a couple on ECM ("Survivor's Suite" and "Eyes of the Heart"). It's all great!

James Hale said...

The eight I was counting are:
Fort Yawuh
Treasure Island
Death and the Flower

I didn't include Expectations -- a favourite of mine -- because the quartet only appears on one track, it was on Columbia rather than Impulse! and has been reissued at least once in 2000 in its original format. Excellent point on Survivors Suite and Eyes of the Heart, Nick, although they have remained in the ECM catalogue.