Keith Jarrett and Michelle Makarski ‘J.S. Bach Six sonatas for piano and violin’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5

Keith Jarrett and Michelle MakarskiDo Johann Sebastian Bach and jazz have anything in common? This has been a perennial question that jazz musicians have long since accepted as given. In the case of Keith Jarrett, he has at intermittent intervals, dipped into the extensive Bach repertoire for ECM, most notably the two books of the ‘Well Tempered Keyboard’ which he has recorded both on harpsichord and piano. For his latest project, he retains the piano and joins up with classical violinist Michelle Makarski with whom he has performed pieces together at regular weekend meetings, first initiated at Christmas 2008. Bach is, in fact, a composer whose music was always intended for greater freedom of interpretation and that may be one among a host of reasons why his music is held in such high esteem by jazz musicians. Indeed in its time, the sonatas were groundbreaking pieces for the use of the keyboard as something more than an accompanying instrument. This was a lesson learnt by the late Bill Evans in his innovatory piano trio formation and one that Jarrett and others have taken on board in subsequent trio recordings. In fact, this new interpretation remains faithful to the transcriptions and compare favourably with other versions such as those of Glenn Gould and Jamie Lavedo, or even Grumiaux and Jacottet. The interplay between Jarrett and Makarski is both warm and intimate, with Jarrett far more at ease in the classical idiom, and while it is difficult to single out any individual performance, arguably the most compelling of all is the performance of the fifth movement. Masarksi is particularly well versed in performing with jazz musicians and recorded on Tomasz Stanko’s ‘Green Hill’ album from 2000. All in all a fine transposition of Bach’s music to the contemporary era and one that classical audiences have already found favour with.

Tim Stenhouse