If you choose to hear this as only polite dinner-jazz, some airport-lounge background music that would be fine – I mean, that’s your loss, and it’s not hugely respectful to reduce two giants of the genre down to that’ll do/that’s nice status, but it would be understandable to simply have no complaints about Last Dance and to almost want to shrug it off with the mild version of indifference.
But what’s going on here – though it might always sound so subtle, so assured – is bigger than just that. This is a continuation of the work this pair put down on 2010’s Jasmine; that in itself was picking up on a conversation they first started some 40 years earlier. Jarrett and Haden share, with their respective instruments, that rare ability to create space – to show both the audience and the other player that they’re always listening. And through that they both know, intuitively, how to arrive at the right note. There’s no struggle here. It’s all gorgeous, seamless, softly cascading lines. So to just have this on as background music – a set of lovely, perfect standards – is, as I said, fine. It’s quite correct in a sense. But listen in. Hear the way this duo approaches My Old Flame, as if all of their history softly burns through the 10 minutes of exploration time, or that they can still find a new set of pauses, secret nooks and crannies within a piece like Round Midnight is reason enough to lean in, to keep both ears on this conversation, rather than leave this wonderful music as part of the background soundtrack.
These duo pieces play out with Jarrett’s piano and Haden’s bass acting – always – as voices. It is as if two singers or storytellers have met up; they’re simply using the tools they’ve always carved with.
There’s something reassuring in the kid-gloves approach to a new version of It Might As Well Be Spring, to Everything Happens To Me, Every Time We Say Goodbye…
Such an exquisite – and perfectly chosen – set of songs. The theme is that of farewells, Jarrett, apparently quite sick, seems even more prolific (if that’s possible) – digging out jewels from the archive, creating new works in his home studio. Perhaps he and Haden won’t get to make another record. That thought alone compels me to spend even more time with this.