George Schuller: The Survivors' Suite
The Survivors' Suite
George Schuller's Circle Wide
Like Before, Somewhat After (Playscape 060607)
Composed by Keith Jarrett.
Recorded: Brooklyn, June 5-6, 2007
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
In 1935, One Bull attempted to revive the Sun Dance among the Teton Sioux after decades of government prohibition, and his efforts contributed to the eventual reestablishment of a time-honored tradition that is now flourishing in Native American culture. George Schuller's recording of Keith Jarrett's The Survivors' Suite, some three decades after Jarrett's so-called "American Quartet" made its only recording of the composition, reminds me of this singular event. Schuller's successful staging of the Jarrett work takes on a larger ceremonial aspect that is in keeping with the character of this music. Jarrett's work from this period often reminded one of the depth and power of a ritual, and Schuller understands this aspect well. His performance builds with confidence, a stately and powerful unfolding that energizes almost 20 minutes of music-making. There is much to appreciate here: from the small details of percussion and bass counterpoint to the forceful sax contribution from McCaslin. But above all, the sheer sweep and vision of the compositional flow earn our respect. This, my friends, is not a mere "cover" version. Rather, as with any powerful ritual, this one channels its own unique energies by moving in the same paths as the most attuned spirits of the past.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia
Revisiting Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet by Ted Gioia