Keith Jarrett
(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Pennsylvania-born pianist Keith Jarrett (1945) moved to New York in 1965. After stints with Art Blakey and Charles Lloyd, Jarrett formed his own trio with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian (Ornette Coleman's rhythm section), that recorded Life Between The Exit Signs (may 1967) and Somewhere Before (october 1968). Restoration Ruin (march 1968) was a singer-songwriter album on which he played all the instruments. Having proven his passion for the styles of Bill Evans and Paul Bley, besides a familiarity with Ornette Coleman's free-jazz idiom, Jarrett was briefly hired by Miles Davis in 1970 to play electric keyboards. After leaving Davis' group and after the piano-vibraphone collaboration Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett (july 1970), composed almost entired by Jarrett (Fortune Smiles, The Raven Speaks), he returned to acoustic keyboards.

In 1971 he made three sessions that set the standard for the rest of his career. The first session of his quartet with Haden, Motian and tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman (the "American Quartet") was documented on three albums: The Mourning of a Star (july 1971), containing the nine-minute The Mourning of a Star (without Redman), Birth (july 1971), with Spirit, and El Juicio (july 1971), with Gypsy Moth and the free-form jam El Juicio. The second session, Expectations (october 1971), collapsed their talents into lyrical reinventions of Latin jazz (Common Mama), jazz-rock (Take Me Back) and free jazz (the 17-minute Nomads).

Hamburg '72 (june 1972) documents the trio of Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian performing a 14-minute live version of Haden's Song For Che.

His first solo acoustic piano album, Facing You (november 1971), was more articulate in defining his eclectic and visionary personality, that already absorbed influences ranging from gospel to classical music via cool jazz and free jazz, and metabolized them thanks to a melodic and visceral talent for filling the musical space like a living orchestra (In Front, My Lady My Child, Lalene).

Ruta & Daitya (may 1971) was an exotic-sounding collaboration with Jack DeJohnette. The double-LP In The Light album (february 1973), collecting various chamber pieces, offered the first clue to Jarrett's neoclassical ambitions: the 19-minute Metamorphosis for flute and string orchestra, the 12-minute In the Cave In the Light for piano, percussion and string orchestra, the seven-minute A Pagan Hymn for solo piano, a 21-minute Brass Quintet, a 16-minute String Quartet Crystal Moment for four celli and two trombones, etc.

The American quartet delivered the live Fort Yawuh (february 1973), with the 13-minute Misfits, the 18-minute Fort Yawuh and the dramatic 12-minute De Drums.

But the triple-LP Solo Concerts (july 1973) documented two completely improvised solo concerts, each more than one hour long. His ensemble work may have been intriguing, but these colossal improvisations were unique. They created a warm, soothing ambience and organic structures out of the mutation and replication of minimal gestures, a musical example of self-organization and emergent properties.

The American quartet recorded Treasure Island (february 1974), with The Rich And The Poor, while Belonging (april 1974) inaugurated the "European Quartet", formed with saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen, and devoted to less intense and less cerebral music (Blossom, Solstice).

Luminessence (april 1974) contained Jarrett compositions for saxophone (Garbarek) and string orchestra, notably Luminessence and Numinor, that hardly belonged to the jazz (or classical) tradition.

The American quartet, now augmented with Brazilian percussionist Guilherme Franco, cut Death and the Flower (october 1974), mainly devoted to the 23-minute suite Death and the Flower, Backhand (left-overs from the same session), Mysteries (december 1975), that contained the 15-minute free-form jam Mysteries and Shades (december 1975), with Shades Of Jazz.

The double-LP of The Koeln Concert (january 1975) perfected his style of solo improvisation, transforming the stream of his tense, introverted, semi-philosophical ruminations into static zen-like spiritual meditations, and became one of the best-selling jazz albums of all times, besides foreshadowing the boom of new-age music.

On the neoclassical front, Arbour Zena (october 1975) contained abstract music for strings and jazz improvisers (Jarrett, Garbarek and Haden), notably the 27-minute Mirrors. The 32-minute piano sonata Ritual (june 1976) tried to decouple Jarrett the composer from Jarrett the performer (he doesn't play it), emphasizing the pensive and sentimental elements of his art.

Back to the quartet, Jarrett played piano, soprano sax, bass flute, celesta and percussion on the 48-minute The Survivor's Suite (april 1976) that seemed to bring together his three personas: the jazz ensemble player, the avantgarde classical composer and the solo piano improviser. The composer crafted the stately architecture, the ensemble breathed life into it and the improviser injected a soul into it. The live 33-minute Eyes of the Heart, off the three-sided LP Eyes of the Heart (may 1976), was a loose corollary to the Survivor's Suite.

However, Jarrett's interest in the American quartet (without Franco) was fading, as proven by the lack of Jarrett compositions on Bop-Be (october 1976) and Byablue (same session).

His solo albums also became too self-indulgent. The suites of Staircase (may 1976), namely the three-movement Staircase, two-movement Hourglass, three-movement Sundial and three-movement Sand, were languid and uneventful. The nine-movement Spheres for pipe organ, off Hymns & Spheres (september 1976), was baroque and redundant. The ten-LP Sun Bear Concerts (november 1976), containing five improvisations (each a double-LP), was more megalomania than music.

Gary Peacock, Jack De Johnette and Keith Jarrett collaborated on Peacock's Tales Of Another (february 1977), containing the three-part suite Trilogy.

The European quartet, with its folkish overtones, became the best vehicle for Jarrett's intimate lyricism starting with My Song (november 1977), that included the romantic theme of My Song but also the supernatural atmospheres of Questar, Tabarka, Mandala and The Journey Home. Their live Nude Ants (may 1979) further stretched the temporal dimension with the 17-minute Chant of the Soul, the 20-minute Processional, the 30-minute juggernaut Oasis, New Dance and Sunshine Song, pieces that seem to float rather than flow.

The new solo effort, Invocations/ The Moth and the Flame (november 1979), contained Invocations, a seven-movement suite for pipe organ and saxophone (both played by him) recorded in an abbey to take advantage of the acoustics (an idea popularized by Paul Horn), and The Moth and the Flame, a five-movement suite for grand piano. The triple-LP Concerts (may 1981) returned to his favorite live improvised format.

His interest in classical music increased over the years, leading to The Celestial Hawk (march 1980), a three-movement concerto for piano, percussion and orchestra, Book of Ways (july 1986) was a studio album of clavichord studies. Bridge of Light (1994) collected Elegy for Violin and String Orchestra (1984), Adagio for Oboe and String Orchestra (1984), Sonata for Violin and Piano (1984) and Bridge of Light for Viola and Orchestra (1990).

He wasted a trio (the "Standards Trio") with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette on collections of jazz standards (the first one in 1983). The trio rarely performed Jarrett originals, but, when it did, they ranked among his most challenging works, such as the 30-minute Flying, off Changes (january 1983), and the 15-minute Endless, off Changeless (october 1987).

The double-LP Spirits (july 1985) collected mediocre home recordings in which Jarrett played many instruments by himself.

Jarrett played electric guitars, Fender bass, drums, tablas, percussion, voice, recorder as well as piano on the unreleased (until 2013) No End (1986).

Solo improvised concerts of the latter days included Dark Intervals (april 1987), Paris Concert (october 1988), Vienna Concert (july 1991), La Scala (february 1995), and, after a long hiatus due to illness, Radiance (october 2002).

The Standards trio finally delivered some innovative music with the live recordings Inside Out (july 2000) and Always Let Me Go (april 2001) that contained lengthy free-form jams such as From the Body, Inside Out and 341 Free Fade (on the former) and the 40-minute Hearts In Space on the latter.

Jarrett also recorded classical music, from Bach to Haendel to Mozart to Shostakovich to Lou Harrison to Arvo Part.

Jarrett's "fusion jazz" rarely fused jazz with rock or funk, but it was still a fusion of jazz with other genres, namely folk and classical music.

The triple-CD set Paris-London - Testament (december 2008) documents two concerts.

Jasmine (march 2007) was a collaboration between Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden.

The double-CD Rio (april 2011) documents a live concert.

Creation (july 2014) collects live piano solos.

The four-disc box-set A Multitude Of Angels (october 1996) documents live performances.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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