The Survivor's Suite
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Not the SURVIVOR'S SUITE. I must have played it a thousand times over the years, and each time I hear new things in this outstanding album. It's the usual purchase history: taped it off a friend at uni in 1977, persuaded my brother to buy it on LP in the vac, bought my own copy of the CD in the 80s, still waiting for ECM to reissue on SACD (or at least remastered) in the 00s.
Not for nothing was this voted the Melody Maker's Jazz Album of the Year in 1977.
I just finished playing it again today, and my area of intrigue is another tiny detail: was it over-dubbed? This would be unusual for a Jarrett album, but there are passages where Jarrett appears to be playing both soprano sax and bass recorder. (And you thought this was going to be just another piano album?!)
The extraordinary thing about this album -- which has always been in my all-time Top Ten -- is that there are passages which I regard as almost unlistenable. But those noisy, free-jazz sections serve only to accentuate the total beauty of the quiet pieces which follow them.
There is so much going on in this album. There's more than a hint of world music. Paul Motian's drum-playing is extraordinary, and a source of inspiration for anyone worried that their creativity might dry up in the forties. Haden's bass is fantastic -- utterly dependable whenever Jarrett needs to swing, yet rich in emotion when required to perform a solo or the closing coda of each track. Redman, though primarily a saxophone player, actually gets to play more percussion than sax on this album.Read more ›
Jarrett worked with two quartets in the mid-70s: a European one with Jan Garbarek on sax, and this, the American one, with Charlie Haden on bass and Dewey Redman on sax. The differences between the two are enormous, but both produced wonderful albums.
On this, released after the US quartet had broken up, Jarrett experiments with the bass recorder and celeste, to entrancing, mystical effect. It seems ridiculous to suggest it, but could Jarrett have been trying to ape (purely in marketing terms) Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells' by way of his multi-instrumentalism and two-tracks-to-an-album structure?
That is sheer whimsy. What is not in doubt is that from the moment you start getting into this album, you have before you many years of listening pleasure. If you like any sort of intelligent music and can cope with the occasionally raucous sax, you will love this album. Charlie Haden's bass coda at the end of each track are alone worth the price of the CD. Magnificent!
It's also, without a doubt, the most compositionally ambitious and dense album Jarrett made with this lineup. It's different in tone than their other albums -- there isn't too much of the free-wheeling looseness, funky gospel roots, vibrant swing, or general sense of fun that characterizes those recordings. Other elements of the group's sound appear here -- cascading rubato ballads (two of them on "Beginning"), the world-music-flavored collective improvisation that opens the album, free jazz (the first few minutes of "Conclusion"), and interplay between Redman's tenor and Jarrett's soprano saxophones. The suite even recycles a theme from an earlier album ("Great Bird", from Death and the Flower), though it's given a very different reading here. These elements might surprise someone who comes in expecting the Jarrett of the European Quartet, the Standards Trio or the marathon solo concerts.
As far as the performances, Dewey Redman is superb here. He gets four or five excellent solos, and his intense wailing over the rumbling rhythm section in the last few minutes is my favorite part of the album.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The word 'interesting' was once placed off-limits by an academic friend of mine. He said that one had to commit and the word did not allow that. Read morePublished on January 11, 2013 by Gavin Franklin
Keith Jarrett has done a mind boggling amount of jazz recordings, perhaps the greatest body of work by any jazz artist ever. Read morePublished on May 18, 2012 by Lance B. Sjogren
I easily rate "Survivor's Suite", by Jarrett's American Quartet among his top 3 recordings ever. Another one in that list would be "Arbour Zena"=which is a totally different... Read morePublished on February 12, 2012 by Phasedin
Among Jarrett's non solo works this is one of my preferred albuns. The music floats around you like some kind of mist, carrying you away to distant places in forgotten times.Published on April 2, 2009 by Andre Luiz de Oliveira
The Survivor's Suite is a remarkable creation of Keith Jarrett's American Quartet. This recording represents the group's ability to play as one unit, and to take the listener on an... Read morePublished on October 25, 2007 by Luke Sellick
This is amazing music, whether you are into avant garde-ism or not. The album never gets too far out, but remains intense the whole time through. Read morePublished on August 11, 2001 by C. David LaRoche
I bought this on the strength of the "sidemen." The album has some extremely strong and beautiful moments but a good portion of side 1 rambles a bit. Read morePublished on January 30, 2001 by Stephen