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Review: Pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Charlie Haden evoke joy and sadness on 'Last Dance'

Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden, "Last Dance" (ECM)

There's a sense of both joy and sadness to "Last Dance," which surprisingly is the first album in pianist Keith Jarrett's illustrious nearly 50-year career to hit No. 1 on Billboard's traditional jazz chart.

"Last Dance" is drawn from the same informal 2007 sessions at Jarrett's home studio that reunited the pianist with bassist Charlie Haden for the first time in more than three decades and yielded the Grammy-nominated 2010 CD, "Jasmine."

The joy comes from hearing these two jazz masters in a relaxed, intimate setting, complementing, supporting and listening intensely to each other without wasting any notes.

The sadness comes from the realization that the album is this masterful duet's "last dance" together. Shortly after the release of "Jasmine," Haden suffered an onset of post-polio syndrome, which led to a hiatus from touring and recording; he died Friday from the prolonged illness. That gives an added poignancy to the three closing tracks, "Where Can I Go Without You," ''Every time We Say Goodbye" and "Goodbye"— two of which are alternate versions of takes heard on "Jasmine."

Jarrett and Haden each pushed jazz in new directions and shared a deep-rooted love of standards. On "Last Dance," they tenderly embrace such melodic ballads as Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin's "My Ship" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It Might As Well Be Spring." They also change pace by lightly swinging through "'Round Midnight" at a slightly faster tempo than Thelonious Monk's original version, and quicken the tempo even more on Bud Powell's bebop burner "Dance of the Infidels."

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