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Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden first played together in 1967. Haden, fresh from helping Ornette Coleman advance the cause of free jazz, joined the pianist’s debut trio, and the two men worked together for the next 10 years, chiefly in Jarrett’s prolific American Quartet. Then, after three decades apart, they were reunited, and so enjoyed playing together again they decided to record as a duo. In March 2007, ensconced for four days in Jarrett’s home studio, they taped sufficient material for two exceptionally beautiful albums: Jasmine appeared in 2010 and now we have Last Dance, the title sadly apposite since Haden died in July, shortly after the CD’s release.

Last Dance is a touching valediction, with the laid-back, late-night feel of old friends reminiscing. The playing is relaxed yet attentive; the primary focus is the Great American Songbook, including leisurely explorations of My Old Flame and It Might as Well be Spring. There are also two jazz standards – a sprightly Dance of the Infidels and a circuitous stroll through Round Midnight – plus alternate takes of Where Can I Go Without You and Goodbye, originally on Jasmine. There are no radical changes, although aficionados will savour the subtle shifts of emphasis and tone; this Goodbye, for instance, is more subdued, yet lingers longer. What impresses most throughout Last Dance is the duo’s remarkable empathy. Listening closely to each other, they demonstrate an almost telepathic rapport, with Haden’s spare, melodic bass lines underpinning Jarrett’s lovely, effusive flourishes.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing