Keith Jarrett: Someone to Watch Over Me


Someone to Watch Over Me


Keith Jarrett (piano)


The Melody at Night, With You (ECM 1675)

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Keith Jarrett (piano).

Composed by George and Ira Gershwin


Recorded: New Jersey, 1998


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

This is a very nuanced performance, and one almost senses that Jarrett is playing the Gershwin standard for himself, not for an audience. The setting (this track was recorded at his home) and circumstances (the artist was recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome) no doubt reinforce this atmosphere of an artist who has retreated from the world to converse with his own private muse. No flashy passages, no theatrical moments, distract us from his gentle development of the melodic line.

I especially like how Jarrett handles the harmonic movement of this song. As I have noted elsewhere, Jarrett displays a surprisingly respectful attitude toward the old standards, and rarely engages in radical reharmonization, unlike most Gen X and Gen Y jazz pianists, who cannot resist twisting these songs into peculiar new structures. Yet this song, with its simple diatonic melody – it's one of Gershwin's most old-fashioned sounding tunes – almost requires a jazz artist to do something dramatic to give it some edge. Even so, Jarrett refuses to undertake a surgical reconstruction of the original. He makes small and subtle adjustments here and there to the chords, but remains absolutely faithful to the song's original essence. It testifies to Jarrett's artistry that he can achieve so much with such delicacy and restraint.

I am even tempted to use the word "modesty"—not a term typically thrown at Mr. Jarrett—in describing this performance. Perhaps it is an unusual word to apply to any jazz outing, given the heroic traditions of jazz, a genre which always seems most at home when it reaches for the excessive and intense. Nonetheless, modesty is not a bad way of describing the maturity with which our pianist allows this Gershwin song to emerge under his sensitive fingertips.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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