In recent years, pianist Keith Jarrett and ECM have collaborated in releasing varied, important recordings from his performance and private archives. After the Fall, recorded with his iconic "standards trio" with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, is another. Recorded at a concert in Newark, New Jersey in November 1998, it exists in the space between the group's Tokyo '96 (1997) and Whisper Not (1999). This performance marked Jarrett's return to the stage after a two-year battle with chronic fatigue syndrome. This particular concert was the first Jarrett performed since the 1996 Italian solo performances issued as A Multitude of Angels in 2016.
This double disc isn't merely a compelling historical document, it is an exemplary concert full of inspired readings of classic jazz tunes ranging from the the Great American Songbook through bebop and John Coltrane. Disc one's opener, a 15-plus-minute reading of Allie Wrubel and Herb Magidson's "The Masquerade Is Over," is astonishing. Jarrett kicks it off with a sensitive re-imagining of its melody and harmony, but when DeJohnette enters with his brushes, it begins to shift until it breaks through to hard-swinging post-bop. They follow it with a bright, impassioned take on Charlie Parker's "Scrapple from the Apple" with Jarrett offering plenty of right-hand fireworks. As DeJohnette finds new rhythmic lanes in the tune, Peacock opens spaces inside the changes and swings them through. After an arresting balance of communication and physicality on the nearly ten-minute ballad "Old Folks" -- featuring a gorgeous Peacock solo -- they close the first set out with a sprightly, harmonically lush, and rhythmically diverse version of "Autumn Leaves," full of deft exchanges between the players that last nearly 14 minutes.
Disc two returns to bop with a long, joyous reading of Bud Powell's "Bouncin' with Bud" and Sonny Rollins' blues-drenched "Doxy." Noel Coward's ballad "I'll See You Again" is a vehicle for the close communication between these players -- note DeJohnette's syncopated flourishes and Peacock's brilliant solo as Jarrett expands the harmonics to showcase the improvisational potential in popular song. They follow with a haunted read of Paul Desmond's exquisite vehicle for melodic improvisation in "Late Lament," before shifting back to bluesy bop with Pete La Roca's "One for Majid," boasting another smoking Peacock solo. While jazzmen have offered "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" before, none have ever delivered it with this much drama and fleet articulation. Jarrett almost hammers the changes while simultaneously embellishing them with taut middle-register arpeggios. Oddly, it sets the stage perfectly for Coltrane's "Moment's Notice," rendered with bop intensity and knotty swing. After the Fall could have ended there, but thankfully doesn't: the whispering shimmer of "When I Fall in Love" brings the performance back to earth, closing one of this trio's great recorded performances. It sounds as exhilarating and thrilling today as it did two decades ago.