February 29th, 2016
A true legend of modern jazz, seldom seen outside of his work with Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock returned to Seattle with his sparkling trio of Marc Copland, piano, and the great Joey Baron on drums on Feb 20th to the Seattle Art Museum in an Earshot jazz presentation.
The senior statesman Peacock has traveled far and wide in the realms of jazz, playing key roles in some of the art form’s most meditative as well as the most daring explorations. Early on he played with West Coast stars like Art Pepper, then accompanied Miles Davis, but also found his way into the soaring, sometimes torrid experimentation of Albert Ayler. He also worked with great innovators like Jimmy Giuffre, Bill Evans, Roland Kirk, George Russell, Tony Williams, and Paul Bley.
Peacock has always been known as a player of rare ability in the most heady of jazz, but also the most heartfelt. He expanded his abilities not only technically but aesthetically, hearing his way on the bandstands and off into idiosyncratic resonances. In Japan, he studied eastern religions and medicine; in Seattle, in the early 1970s, he studied biology at the University of Washington. By then, he was ready to begin his long association with pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette; it occurred on Peacock’s ECM debut Tales of Another, in 1977. Peacock then spent four years in Seattle teaching at Cornish College of the Arts until 1983 when ECM guru Manfred Eicher asked Jarrett, DeJohnette, and Peacock to come together formally as the Standards Trio, which for 25 years would transcendentally define the jazz trio.
Since 2000, in the Standards Trio’s last decade, Peacock began a string of other stellar associations – with Bley, drummer Paul Motian, pianist Marilyn Crispell, saxophonist Lee Konitz, guitarist Bill Frisell, and others – and then formed in 2015 the Gary Peacock Trio that performs this month in Seattle. It sees him join forces with two earlier colleagues: drummer Joey Baron, with whom he, Konitz, and Frisell recorded Enfants Terribles: Live at the Blue Note, in 2012; and pianist Marc Copland, whom he has often accompanied in recent times.
The trio’s Now This appeared last summer, timed to the bassist’s 80th birthday, with Peacock compositions old and new as well as pieces by Baron, Copland, and Peacock’s fellow bass giant and late Bill Evans accompanist, Scott LaFaro. All the pieces, Thomas Conrad wrote in making the album an Editor’s Pick in JazzTimes, are like Peacock’s solos: “spare, self-contained figures of mysterious expectancy. In his haunting high bass lines, melodies linger, resolve, and disappear.”
Conrad had high praise for Copland, calling him “the right pianist for an album about atmosphere and mood. But his quietude is deceptive. His scattered fragments and his counterintuitive chords create continuous subtle diversions. Baron is also subtle and provocative, and essential as a colorist.”