Walking into Symphony Hall, I was wondering what I could write about this concert. I've seen the Standards Trio multiple times, and they've always put on a brilliant, beautiful, and fairly predictable show. Lots of standards, at least one ten minute vamp at the end of a tune The inevitable tension of "Will Keith freak out at the audience?" Basically, every trio record ever recorded, plus a little drama. This has been the knock on Keith for years, especially among musicians. For his part, Keith insists, as he restated in concert notes distributed at the doors, that the point of the trio, even after 25 years, is that the vessel of the presentation is so much less important than the content.
He proved it tonight. Whether planned or not, the first set was mostly movie themes: "Green Dolphin Street" (people forget it was a movie, after all) "Someday My Prince Will Come", a beautiful dark ballad I didn't recognize, before moving to a blues. Keith opened the concert with a big, billowy piano introduction, almost Chopin-ish, before moving into a beautifully swung performance. The band took "Prince" at a really hard, medium-slow tempo, and for most of Keith's solo, Jack kept a 2-beat brush pattern going, and was dropping little bombs through his pattern, turning a cute waltz into a pretzel of a tune. The ballad (can anyone who was there help me with the name) was gorgeous, with the band using a much more elastic time sense than I'm used to. Keith would lead into the bridge with almost a pregnant pause, with everyone landing in the bridge literally seconds behind where you'd expect it. At times it reminded me of how the Motion trio plays ballads.
The second set started with another ballad I didn't recognize, before moving into "Innocence", a Keith original from the European quartet days, which really surprised me. Keith proceeded to tear it up, taking on of the most virtuosic solos I've ever heard from him or possibly anyone else, rolling in, around and through the changes at lightspeed. He further surprised with his first encore, taking "When I Fall in Love", the warhorse of warhorses for this group, from the usual reverence the trio shows it and swinging it really hard, with Keith almost not stopping his solo for Gary to come in, then coming back after the bass solo swinging even harder.
Keith himself even seemed surprised with how the night went, saying after Innocence- "I can't say anything about this group that matches what you just heard." I can say that to their usual brilliance, they added the element of surprise, something I hope they'll keep in the book.