For many years, the trio of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette has been taking jazz standards and expanding them via improvisation into an entire language that reflects not only the history but also the eternal present of jazz. Many have wondered if Jarrett would ever return to the "free" style of playing he did in the 1960s on releases for Columbia, Atlantic, and Impulse! It would be both impossible and unreasonable to expect a musician like Jarrett -- and his sidemen for that matter -- to return to the fold of an innocence they lost long ago, when they were lesser musicians than they are now. Inside Out, recorded over two nights in July 2000 in London, bridges that gap: It is completely improvised save for one tune -- an almost unbearably beautiful reading of "When I Fall in Love" -- done as an encore. Here are Jarrett, Peacock, and DeJohnette as they haven't been heard from in years, starting from silence, digging deep into the history of jazz, blues and even R&B to invent spontaneously a musical language that is trio-specific, communicative on the deepest levels of nuance, sonances, and spirit. The opening track, "From the Body," begins as a careening trip through the blues, from Memphis to St. Louis back through Mississippi to New Orleans and coming to rest in Chicago. Given how close the dialogue is here, and the expansive harmonic invention at work in the middle registers of the piano and the bass, it becomes a blur -- it's impossible to really know who is leading or following or if such a hierarchy even exists anymore. When the blues disintegrate gradually -- and momentarily -- and are replaced by what is defined in the vernacular as "free" playing, the dissonance is traipsed upon only slightly. It's not as if it doesn't belong or isn't welcome, it's just that it's a minor concern because these guys know where they are going or at least want to go. It's familiar but not well-tread or predictable; it's invigorating, knife-edge improvisation. By the time the title track fades in, listeners know that the entire fake book has been thrown out the window and the standards have been erased (or at least left in the hallmarks of collective jazz memory), in favor of this language that calls upon their dignity and verve while establishing its own propriety and basis of utterance. Does it swing? Hell yes it does, if your definition of that word is something other than cut, 4/4, or waltz time -- though some of the music played here engages those very signatures exquisitely. Most importantly, the trio of Jarrett, Peacock, and DeJohnette offers a new kind of free jazz -- one that is lyrical, tonally accessible, and musically elegant, tailored by the ears and executed with the grace of the heart. Many younger players who believe that the only way to improvise freely is to tear their chosen instrument to shreds and bleat every ounce of pain and suffering that can be extracted from it need to hear this record, badly. In it they may find the true secrets of the masters, and the sheer poetics of the improvisational artistry that is jazz.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek