Keith Jarrett ‘Sleeper’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5

For readers relatively new to the ECM back catalogue, some of the building blocks of modern European jazz were built by the label during the 1970s with the ‘European quartet’ headed by Keith Jarrett being among the pantheon of all formations. Albums such as ‘Belonging’, ‘My song’ and ‘Nude Ants’ make for essential listening, but what a treat to have unearthed a live recording of the quartet from 1979 in Tokyo. The extended pieces are on average over ten minutes in length with two compositions weighing in at over twenty minutes apiece. The rhythm section comprises Palle Danielsson on bass and Jon Christensen on drums with Jan Garbarek doubling up on tenor and soprano saxes and occasionally on flute. Fans of the musicians will be in their element here for several of the pieces are beautifully constructed melodic numbers such as ‘So tender’ with a delightful duet between Jarrett and Garbarek. It is a pity that thus far the pairing have never recorded an entire album of duets, so ideally suited are they to one another. Garbarek’s voice, in particular, is at it’s most plaintive here. A gently swinging ‘Prism’ is helped along by the floating accompaniment of the rhythm section while ‘Chant of the soil’ features some latinesque piano vamps from Jarrett and a groove-laden bass and drum ensemble marking this out as another stunning performance. In general, the shorter (still over seven minutes long for the shortest) pieces are the most effective with ‘New dance’ a polyrhythmic vehicle for drums and Jarrett engaging in some of his characteristic humming, though this does not detract in any way from the lyricism on display. As one might expect of an informed Japanese audience, very attentive throughout, and even deferential to the quartet with polite applause between pieces, but complete silence during the performance itself. A fine addition to our knowledge of one of the classic jazz quartets of all time.

Tim Stenhouse

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