Recorded in 2001 live at the State Opera House in Munich, Out of Towners features the Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette trio in the kind of performance we've come to expect from them these last 21 years: Stellar. Being one of contemporary jazz's longest-running bands has its advantages; one of them is having nothing to prove. First and foremost, this band plays standards like no one else. Given their individual careers, the members playing in a trio that performs classics carries a kind of freedom, as well as weight. This material is treated not as museum-piece jazz, but as the essence of song. Check the whispered elegance of "I Can't Believe You're in Love With Me." This Jimmy McHugh-Clarence Gaskill number has plenty of history being recorded definitively by singers, chronologically by Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra. The trio lean into the lyric phrasing in the body of the tune and turn it gently inside out without ever losing its melodic essence. They follow it with "You've Changed," a fine exercise in rhythmic invention with a popping, sure-footed swing throughout. The complete re-vamp of Cole Porter's "I Love You" that unfolds over ten minutes digs into the lyric underbelly of the song and brings out so many subtle and shaded nuances it's like hearing the composition for the first time. The lone original on the set is the title track, written by Jarrett. A sprightly swing is stretched and molded over nearly 20 minutes, and one can hear everyone from Horace Silver to Thelonious Monk to Hampton Hawes in Jarrett's approach, underscored by Peacock's strident basslines that walk the edge of DeJohnette's cymbal-caressed beat. The big surprise is the elegant, finger-popping read of Gerry Mulligan's "Five Brothers." Its skipping melody is folded inside waves of harmonic interweaving by Jarrett through the body taken in a knotty swing that is given wings by the rhythm section. Besides the wondrous performance, the sound of this recording should be noted. Its warmth is immediate, its very close and intimate sound makes the listener feel as if she were in the middle of the stage taking this all in, not in the audience. This is an accomplishment on all fronts.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek