Great music, though a little unfocused
G B | Connecticut | 03/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This 4 CD box set contains the final four albums Keith Jarrett's American "Quartet" (Jarrett, Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Paul Motian and the occasional percussionist) recorded for the Impulse label: Shades, Mysteries, Byablue and Bop-Be. Though they don't reflect the wild eclecticism of the group's first four Impulse albums (available on the 1973-74 Impulse Years box set), this is still some of the best post-bop jazz recorded in the 1970s. There are lots of alternate takes, offering a different perspective on certain tunes (or an excuse to press the Skip button). Shades and Mysteries have a similar modus operandi to the band's previous album, Backhand. "Southern Smiles" is a funky boogaloo, "Rose Petals" is a ballad, "Shades of Jazz" is a post-bop swinger, and the group reasserts its Ornette roots with the spiky "Diatribe". Mysteries (disc 2) evokes a strong Coltrane sound (cerca Crescent), especially on the title track and both takes of "Everything that Lives Laments". "Flame" is another of the group's exotic reed-and-percussion pieces. Byablue and Bop-Be are outliers in the group's career -- most of the tunes were contributed by Redman, Haden, and Motian. (Jarrett wrote 95% of the music on previous albums.) Byablue centers on Motian's floating, abstract compositions; it's difficult to connect with some of this music. Bop-Be is more accessible; Jarrett contributes "Bop-Be" (which looks ahead to his work with the Standards Trio), Dewey Redman offers the catchy "Gotta Get Some Sleep" and "Mushi Mushi", and Charlie Haden steals the show with the beautiful ballad "Silence" and the tribute "A Pocketful of Cherry". Overall this box is not as essential as the 1973-74 set, but it does offer a nice complement and rounds out the group's Impulse catalogue. Anyone who likes this group's other work is certain to be pleased."