November’s terrific sold-out appearance by Keith Jarrett’s “Standards” Trio at Royce Hall is still fresh in memory, and a fine new album of free improvisations, “Inside Out” (ECM), is now in the shops, making expectations sky-high as the peerless threesome returned to Royce Sunday night. But Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette thrive upon channeling expectations in different directions — and so, those expecting a brilliantly performed set of on-the-wing originals instead got a less-adventurous but no-less-brilliantly performed set of standards.
Originally scheduled to take place Friday in the august Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where jazz is still rarely heard, but with ticket sales reportedly lagging, it was switched to the more culturally — and acoustically –suited Royce. As a result, the trio faced a nearly full house packed with pianists, a few celebrities and other aficionados doting upon every note.
On the surface, Jarrett and his friends seemed to pull back from the boundaries that they were pushing on “Inside Out” — the trio’s first album-length bout with free association since 1987’s “Changeless.” Revelations in an act such as this — they have been playing together more-or-less regularly since 1983 — are found in the details within the structures, and there were plenty to behold. Each coda, for example, was an adventure, sometimes ending the pieces with comic, matter-of-fact abruptness, sometimes drifting off into space with exquisitely hushed dynamics.
Jarrett came up with a gorgeously sustained, impressionistically colored piano intro that slowly yet inexorably evolved into the tune of “Yesterdays.” His solo in “There Will Never Be Another You” at first seemed pedestrian, but took off and flew in the upper treble almost without warning.
DeJohnette continues to use all of his massive drum kit in the most economical ways, exhibiting amazing control over his hi-hat cymbal pedal, always putting down a groove for Peacock to swing upon happily.
And later in “There Will Never Be Another You,” how in the world did DeJohnette time his final cymbal flourish exactly on Keith’s final improvised note? Must be E.S.P.