Musically, it was peerless. Jarrett's touch is still second-to-none, ranging from the opening "You Go To My Head" as a Bud Powell-ish medium swing, the heart-melting balladry of "Too Young to Go Steady," and the impossible task of making uptempo romps through "Autumn Leaves" and "All the Things You Are" captivating and intriguing. His double-time lines are full of invention and exploration, and when he sinks his teeth into more stock bebop and blues phrases they have a sense of catharsis and authority. Gary Peacock had a less aggressively amped sound than I remember, his solos concise statements. Jack DeJohnette at times threatened to overwhelm Keith, nailing the dirty gospel-blues in the first set and providing the most unpredictable yet entirely perfect fills throughout the whole concert.
Temperamentally, it seemed Keith was in better spirits than usual. There were coughs and he played through them. There was an inordinate amount of time between two tunes, and during the negotiations he joked "Three heads are better than one." Jarrett paced around the piano during much of Peacock's solos and was constantly drinking fluids and at one point seemingly taking medication. They repeated the "No flash photos even during the bows" announcement as we returned from intermission. At the end, they walked off during a standing ovation, returned for a second bow, and by popular demand they returned to the stage. Yet some moron decided to take a flash photo. Here's what ensued:
It's obvious I have created an atmosphere where I don't even have to say anything and everyone knows what is going on. So, the people behind that person, take their camera away and I'll shut up.
Walk offstage. House lights up. No encore.
You know what? From now on, I will celebrate Keith's FIJM appearances by playing Tokyo '96 and Whisper Not in the comfort of my own home, where I can wheeze and sneeze as I please. I wonder if there will ever be a critical mass of people fed up with Jarrett's antics who will just buy the records and stop going to the concerts. Fair enough - there really is nothing like hearing Keith's command of the piano live, to be in the same room as the trio creates spectacular versions of standards. But the records come close, and the mastery and vocabulary has been the same for 27 years, and it's much less expensive and a more pleasurable listening environment, quite frankly.
The Ninja Tune party at Metropolis was the perfect palate cleanser. No pretension, no diva behaviour. Just Mr. Scruff rocking the house with a set full of reggae, afrobeat, salsa and funk and potato-head animation shouting out various Montreal neighbourhoods and advising us: "Warning: Incoming bassline alert!" Perhaps Jarrett should adopt the same proviso: "Caution: virtuoso pianist with God complex ahead. Tread lightly."