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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Keith Jarrett - The Survivors' Suite (ECM 1977) *****

This music is a piece of genius. Even after having listened to it for a hundred times, The Survivors' Suite is still extremely exciting and moving. It starts out very slowly with a worldmusic sounding bass recorder and the lightly plucked bass of Charlie Haden, which move on into a hypnotic repetitive rhythm, the recorder like an incantation moving to the background, and then both saxes (Dewey Redman and Jarrett himself) play the core theme. It is almost magical how, with so very few notes, they can conjure up images of space, open skies, extensive plains, and it is only after approx. nine minutes that Jarrett takes place at his keyboard, repeating the theme in full force, while bass and drums intensify. This is not jazz in the traditional sense, this is music, full stop. Constructed with movements like in a classical symphony, but with room for improvisation. Jarrett's piano solo follows seamlessly, sometimes hesitant, then light and dancing. Paul Motian shows his extraordinary skills in giving accents to the music without playing a fixed rhythm, or rather giving the rhythm implicitly. Charlie Haden gets also some solo space, lightly supported by vibraphone (or glockenspiel?). Haden is a very lyrical improvisor, and he builds great tension into his solo by repeating the same sequence of notes and then gliding to the lowest sounds on his bass. Redman joins and soars as a bird over the melody, and when Jarrett plays his piano piece, Redman keeps blowing, softly, very softly in the background. Jarrett plays one of his most beautiful tunes, with all the romanticism and sensitivity for which he is known. "Conclusion", the second piece (the B-side of the original album) starts with an intense, chaotic, free-for-all, with Redman screeching, Motian hard-hitting, Jarrett thundering, then suddenly moving on to an uptempo melody with an almost latin feel, with Haden on arco. The intensity remains for a long piece of improvisation, shifting back to the beginning melody, with the high tones of the bass recorder, the singing, howling sax, the plucking bass. The solo sax evolves toward the menacing chaos tones from the beginning, joined by the rest of the band and then suddenly the whole thing bursts open like a flower into a liberating open melody, with long and sustained tones of the sax and a playful piano. Everything quiets down then, with flute and bass, ebbing away... absolutely sublime!

"And those that create out of the holocaust of their own inheritance anything more than a convenient self-made tomb shall be known as "Survivors".


Anonymous said...

I like this album, but I think several of the group's albums on Impulse are substantially better -- Fort Yawuh, Backhand, Treasure Island, Shades, Mysteries.

cliff helander said...

This is an extraordinary composition. It is almost like tribal music, absolutely mesmerizing. I have listened to it many times over the years, and it never fails to uplift and fill my soul and provide me with inner strength.

Landsart said...

Have been listening to this work for thirty plus years ,it is as fresh and,relevant as the first time !

AJ said...

I believe The survivors suite is a top 5 KJ album. I have been playing it corsica its release and never grow tired of it. I've also given it to friends who have thoroughly enjoyed it also.