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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Over 15 years ago on this program, we had the rare opportunity to visit a legendary musician, pianist Keith Jarrett. He invited us to meet him at his home in a verdant, idyllic part of New Jersey away from the noise and crowds. Jarrett ushered us into a studio, which is filled with keyboards, including an instrument that predates modern pianos. We talked about his famed improvisations of the 1970s, the dynamics of playing in a trio and his love of standards. That love is still going strong. You can hear his passion on a new CD, "Jasmine."

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: "Jasmine" was recorded in Keith Jarrett's home studio. Another jazz great played with him - bassist Charlie Haden. Keith Jarrett joins us from his home. Welcome back to the program, Keith.

Mr. KEITH JARRETT (Pianist): Thank you.

HANSEN: And Charlie Haden is in the studios of NPR West. Charlie, welcome back to the program to you.

Mr. CHARLIE HADEN (Jazz Musician): Thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: Now, Keith, you haven't played with Charlie in some three decades. What brought you back together for this recording?

Mr. JARRETT: I guess it was fated. Charlie called me and asked if I would do a BBC - talk about some of our playing together for the BBC, and I said yes, but I don't want to play. I never liked to mix those things. And then Charlie came and he had his bass with him. We did the interview and I promptly said, let's play. And if it's good enough to release we'll talk about that later. And he said yes.

HANSEN: So, Charlie, you went up to Keith's studio in New Jersey?

Mr. HADEN: Yes. It was a documentary that TV was doing about my life and we were in the process of that time interviewing different musicians over my career. And I wanted them to interview Keith, so Ruth said put your bass in the car. I said, why? She said put it in the car. I said, okay. So, I put the bass in the car and somehow Keith found out about it. He said bring in your bass. So, we played.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Charlie Haden, I mean, without the drummer, sometimes in the way that you were playing the bass, did you imagine sometimes you were a drum section?

Mr. HADEN: Well, I've always had a built-in drummer inside me 'cause I play with so many great drummers. So, it's there and...

Mr. JARRETT: I think we found out we both had that.

HANSEN: Ah.

Mr. HADEN: Yeah.

Mr. JARRETT: Yeah.

HANSEN: Given that you two have been around for so long and have played together and sometimes what I'm hearing on this CD is a conversation. I mean, it's like two old friends that never really - it's like they pick up where they left off. Did you feel that way?

Mr. JARRETT: Well, I can say this - the best answer to this question that I can come up with was given to me by a young girl who was my tour assistant and she was not very used to - she didn't hear much music. She didn't hear much of my stuff. And we were listening to it in a car. Of course, not an ideal situation. And she looked at me and said, you guys are so together. And she was not a jazz fan or anything particularly. And she said you are so together. And I said, what do you mean by that? And she said, well, if Charlie played piano he'd play like that. If you played bass, you'd play like that.

Mr. HADEN: That's great.

HANSEN: That is.

Mr. JARRETT: So, I mean, I think my take on whether it was a conversation or not is that it's deeper than a conversation.

Mr. HADEN: You didn't tell me that. That's very hip that she said that.

Mr. JARRETT: Isn't that amazing?

Mr. HADEN: It's unbelievable.

Mr. JARRETT: Yeah.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Keith, I want to talk to you about the piano you play. It's your American Steinway and I read that it wasn't in the best of shape but you said that made it perfect for this recording.

Mr. JARRETT: Well, you know how you get attached to old clothes?

HANSEN: Yeah.

Mr. JARRETT: Yeah. This piano is my practice instrument and for some reason, although my other piano is in perfect shape, I always choose this instrument if I can because I have a connection with it. And so, it has its problems as far as evenness across the keyboard. So, it has some strange noises and inequities but it's close to me in some way. And it's also slightly funky. I guess it's like a tenor player's old horn that he doesn't buy a new horn because he has a connection with that.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: The recording itself is, man, I mean, it's so clear. It just reminded me of a nice cold drink of water, you know. And, I mean, it was all done in your studio. No bells, no whistles, just...

Mr. JARRETT: No bells or whistles, no.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Mr. JARRETT: And Charlie's bass is recorded - I mean, I remember him saying it's the best I've ever heard it. I agree. And but I think I'm right, and Charlie can comment on this, too. I mean, if someone else asked me what were we trying to do as a duo? And I said, well, we're listening. We're trying to find the dynamic not exactly blend but add the right color at the right moment based on what the other player is playing. So, we're actually - we in some way are playing the other person's instrument.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HADEN: You know, at that listening the other night, I heard Keith's fingers on the keyboard.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HADEN: I heard the piano mallets on the strings in a way I'd never heard before.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HADEN: And my fingers pressing down my strings and my plucking finger, I heard it actually brushing the strings.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HADEN: I mean, it's just incredible the sounds that come out of the music that are involved in the music. And it just shows you that it's not really about music, it's about the universe we're living in.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Let me remind people I'm speaking with pianist Keith Jarrett and bass player Charlie Haden about their new CD "Jasmine."

I know some of these songs when I hear, you know, the melody or a singer do them. It took me a while to figure out, 'cause I didn't have a list of titles, the songs I was listening to. I kept thinking they were different songs that I was hearing. But it sounds like you were, I mean, you love the standards but you want to kind of open them up a little bit and...

Mr. JARRETT: I hate to use the word channeling, but - because everybody uses it - but we were letting the songs take us somewhere. That's what happens if you choose good material. They can take you into themselves and then you wrap them around you.

HANSEN: Keith, you've also said, like, the hard - I mean, your love of standards and one of the hard things to do is to preserve the freshness and the standard of playing while playing material that is anything but new. So, I mean, I'm always interested, particularly with songs that have been around for a while, do you think about what approach you're going to take before you even play a note or you just...

Mr. HADEN: No.

HANSEN: No.

Mr. HADEN: No.

Mr. HADEN: Sorry to interrupt you but no.

HANSEN: No. That's an answer to the question.

Mr. HADEN: Yeah. No, but, it's interesting. Improvising has such a funny connotation to most people but it's one of the deepest things there is. I mean, what is a conversation where someone's just been moved from A to B about some topic other than, you know, an improvisation? When people talk they're improvising all the time.

HANSEN: Mm-hum.

Mr. HADEN: That's the thing about musicians, that the priority is to play and create something new that's never been before and you put your life on the line every time that you play because of that. It's like an improvising musician has to make so many sacrifices in their lives, and to really create something that's true to you, it's the most important thing in the world, you know. And that's the way these songs were played and that's the way both of us approach music. That's why we play so well together and we feel good playing together because we have the same musical values in that regard.

Mr. JARRETT: Exactly.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Keith, you just turned the magic 65. Yeah. You're still putting out, I mean, obviously, gorgeous music. Do you know what you're going to do next?

Mr. JARRETT: You mean...

HANSEN: Yeah, I mean, not, you know, as soon as the interview is over I'm going out to the garden to pick some herbs for dinner but...

Mr. JARRETT: Oh God, how did you know that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: 'Cause I've seen your herb garden.

Mr. JARRETT: Oh yeah. I have a list of about 10 things that need to come out. We just rediscovered that there was a recording of the Samuel Barber piano concerto that I did in the '80s before I had my ski accident, which prevented me from ever playing it again. And I didn't think really about whether the radio has this recording, the master recording. So, there's an example.

HANSEN: Charlie, the last time we talked, man, you had your whole family in the studio and you were doing a big ol bluegrass album. I have no idea what to expect from you next.

Mr. HADEN: Well, I'm going into the studio to make a new Quartet West record called "Sophisticated Ladies" with Diana Krall and Renee Fleming and Melanie Gardot and Norah Jones and my wife Ruth Cameron and strings and Ernie Watts and Alan Broadbent and Rodney Green, the quartet.

HANSEN: As if we didn't have so many riches already with your CD, both of you have given us something to look forward to in the future. Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden, their CD "Jasmine" comes out Tuesday on ECM Records. Keith joined us from his home in New Jersey. Thank you so much.

Mr. JARRETT: You're welcome.

HANSEN: And Charlie Haden joined us from NPR West. Charlie, thank you very much.

Mr. HADEN: Thanks, Liane.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: You can hear more of our conversation and a couple of full selections from "Jasmine" at our website, NPRMusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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