Whisper Not

COMPOSERS: Dejohnette,Jarrett,Peacock
LABELS: ECM
PERFORMER: Keith Jarrett (p), Gary Peacock (b), Jack DeJohnette (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 543 816-2

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Keith Jarrett’s recovery from the devastating illness ME must be one of the fastest on record (no pun intended). It struck him down in the autumn of 1996, draining him of all energy and making performance impossible.

But Whisper Not, recorded live only some two and a half years later at the Palais des Congrès, Paris, on 5 July 1999, is one of the most ebullient and brilliant albums of standards he’s ever released. It recalls the atmosphere of an earlier album which also signified a recovery – Standards Live – also recorded in Paris, in July 1985.

Here in 1999, Jarrett overflows with ideas, Peacock and DeJohnette share his joyous intensity, and the enraptured audience often erupts in excited roars of pleasure. The trio revisits bebop with Bud Powell’s ‘Bouncing with Bud’, and a fast, riotous version of Gillespie’s ‘Groovin’ High’. ‘Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams’ has Jarrett playing jaunty stride piano, and his fine blues playing is featured on Clifford Brown’s ‘Sandu’.

Other highspots are the trio’s exploration of ‘What is This Thing Called Love?’, and the marvellous latin groove and spare playing on ‘Poinciana’. There are also exquisite ballad performances including Strayhorn’s ‘Chelsea Bridge’ and Ellington’s ‘Prelude to a Kiss’. Thompson’s Tangos may be Barbara Thompson’s last album for some years because she too has fallen victim to illness.

In 1997 she was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s Disease, but only made it known this year because the progress of the disease has made it difficult for her to continue playing and touring. Her current and final tour began in continental Europe and was due to end in London in early April. Thompson has grown constantly as a saxophonist and composer, because her natural talent has been accompanied by a phenomenal capacity for hard work.

She is one of the most successful and popular British bandleaders, both at home and abroad, and she is also a successful and versatile composer for small groups, big bands, symphony orchestras and classical soloists. The illness struck her, tragically, at the height of her very considerable powers. Her tango album is a gem, full of pith and moment, panache and poetry.

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Each of her four tangos has its own individual atmosphere, and the moods range from the soulful gypsy passion of the first to the serenity of the second, the mysterious, melancholy eloquence of the third and the grandeur of the fourth.