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Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, the “Out-of-Towners” of the title, check into Munich, ECM’s home-base, in July 2001 for an exhilarating concert at the State Opera, traditionally a setting for more formal entertainments....

All the way to the encore, where Jarrett returns alone to the stage to perform a crystalline solo version of “It’s All In The Game” this is a most focused performance which must count amongst the best work from Jarrett/Peacock/DeJohnette, the group still known, colloquially, as “the Standards trio”. There are many highlights: the opening balladesque improvised intro leading into the jaunting and reassuringly familiar chords of “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me” (strongly associated with both Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra/Nelson Riddle), Cole Porter’s beautiful “I Love You” (Coltrane’s “Lush Life” performance of the tune may be a reference in the trio’s version); the vamping blues-based free play on “The Out-of-Towners” which has parallels with “Inside Out”, recorded a year earlier. As Jarrett said then, “even in the context of free playing, the blues are so relevant and true.” And inexhaustible. Gerry Mulligan’s “Five Brothers” closes the trio’s portion of the set, with spirit, flair and drive.

Jarrett’s infrequent Munich concert appearances have always been events. Part of his solo Munich concert, originally released in 1982 in the “Concerts (Bregenz/Munich)” box set was chosen by the pianist himself for his ”Selected Recordings” anthology in the ECM :rarum series. And the acclaimed “Still Live” featured Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette in strong form at Munich’s Philharmonic Hall in 1986.

“The Out-of-Towners” also has the distinction of being one of the trio’s best-sounding discs. Its vivid, intimate presence puts the listener in the front stalls at the opera house, allowing him or her to verify, at close quarters, Down Beat’s remark that “this trio sets the standard of performance for all others on the scene”.

Keith Jarrett has said of the trio’s work, “We are different people, and the alchemy we get when we play together comes from our separate natures. But no description can make a person as great as I feel Jack and Gary are. We've been together so long (more than two decades), we understand each other's language, and we trust each other 100%.” And, elsewhere, “I feel we are an underground band that has, by accident, a large audience. Because we are never conformists, we are always radical, even though we may be playing what people think they know…But what we are doing in those pieces is a non-conforming thing.”

Whether playing the “known” or pulling new music out of the ether – “in jazz, it’s not the material, it’s what you bring to the material” (Jarrett) - the group continues to scale new peaks, and Jarrett himself is receiving a level of public recognition and acclaim unprecedented for a committed improviser. In May 2003, he was presented with the Polar Music Prize of the Royal Swedish Music Academy. In July 2004 he received the equally prestigious Leonie Sonning Music Prize, Denmark’s most important music award. The award committee’s citation stated that Jarrett has “experimented and modernized music without rejecting tradition, uncorrupted by the times or by music’s trends and caprices.” The last time a jazz music musician won the Sonning Music Prize was 20 years ago, when Jarrett’s erstwhile employer Miles Davis received it. The prize winners have more often been drawn from the classical and contemporary music idioms. (In 2003, Hungarian composer György Kurtág, whose work has been championed by ECM New Series, won the award).

Keith Jarrett has also just won the Down Beat Critics Poll as Best Pianist 2004.

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette completed in July 2004 a European tour with concerts in Denmark, Italy, Spain and France. North American dates in Chicago and Los Angeles follow in the coming months, and other concerts are in preparation.

Release of a live solo album by Keith Jarrett, recorded in Tokyo, is planned for 2005 on ECM.

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