The jazz world’s versions of Solar are far too numerous to mention. The tally must grow nightly, as Chuck Wayne’s 12- bar tune is a jam-session staple the world over. Never mind the classic renditions that have appeared on recordings in the six decades since Miles Davis’ appropriated Wayne’s piece in the mid-1950s.
And yet, Keith Jarrett definitely doesn’t think that Solar‘s been overplayed. For decades, he’s been performing it solo, and with his long-standing trio that includes bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette.
Now, on Somewhere, the Jarrett trio’s latest disc, comes the definitive version of Solar. It’s the disc’s 15-minute opener, meaning that it’s almost twice as long as the version that appears on the Jarrett trio’s 1989 double-CD release Tribute. On Somewhere, which was recorded at a 2009 Lucerne, Switzerland, concert, Jarrett ushers in Solar with a slow, grand piano introduction that he calls Deep Space. After the theme is state, Peacock dives in with a solo that feels alive with possibility. Jarrett’s own solo is a magnum opus, exuberant and unrivaled when it comes to flowing creativity. It’s safe to say that this version of Solar won’t be surpassed.
That opening track is one of the disc’s two epics. The CD’s centrepiece is a run through Somewhere, the famous ballad from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Through Jarrett’s expressive reading of the head, Peacock’s fine solo, and Jarrett’s more expansive reprise, the track’s beauty is rich and fully formed, but reasonably conventional — that is, until the music evolves into what Jarrett calls Everywhere, which is a swelling, swirling vamp of nearly 15 minutes that concludes with the Jarrett trio at its ecstatic best.
The disc’s remaining four tracks are shorter and focused. Stars Fell On Alabama and I Thought About You are gorgeous and exquisite ballads. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and Tonight (the disc’s other nod to Bernstein and West Side Story) swing jauntily and crackle consistently with Jarrett’s melodic creativity.
It would be a mug’s game to rank Somewhere among the many brilliant discs by the Jarrett trio over the last three decades. Suffice it to say that time spent immersed in it amounts to one of contemporary jazz’s peak experiences.