ECM have put out the full recording of a Keith Jarrett solo show, captured at the La Fenice back in 2006. To coincide with this remarkable release, we asked three renowned pianists describe the admiration they have for the art and mastery of a living genius

TIGRAN HAMASYAN

“I am a fan of his group records. One of my absolute favorite records is Belonging. For me it’s a masterpiece! I pretty much listen to it everyday! Maybe not everyday, but every two or three days. It’s really inspiring: compositionally, obviously the playing itself and the sound they achieve.”

He brought me back to my own music

“This is one of the first records I heard that was not bebop or post bop. It was a really important discovery for me. At the time I was super into bebop. Belonging and Luminescence–a saxophone concerto he wrote but didn’t play on, which features

“Jan Garbarek’s improvisation – made me realize that you don’t necessarily have to use the bebop vocabulary to improvise. And his solo on ”The Wind Up” is so different, It’s the first time I ever heard a giant exploring a mix like folk music and jazz. It resembled something from Armenia or from the Middle East. Harmonically, there is nothing like Belonging or “Solstice” in the jazz world. In a way it brought me back to my own music. That, and also a lot of the trio records, like Still Life and Standard. Vol 1. The Blue Note Live is also spectacular, especially the 26 minute “Autumn Leaves.” I like that period of music.”

A completely new approach

“He re-enlivened these standards in the eighties by reassessing the way time flows. He emphasised voice leading which is really cool. Songs like “You and a Night and the Music,” from Still Life. It’s one of my favourite trio recordings. Its timing! The feeling of the bars, the form, it pushed boundaries! He didn’t accentuate notes the way that Herbie, Chick or McCoy did in the sixties.When he played with the trio, he stretched the feeling of the eight bar form. That was a completely new approach. Yeah, that’s one thing that I love about Keith.”

Always super controlled

“And obviously he has the most incredible sound. His dynamic improvisation! Every single aspect of it. A lot of pianist tend to lose their sound when things get really intense during improvisation. With Keith it’s always super controlled. But at the same time everything is kept so emotional. It’s something to learn from him: to always keep control of your sound. I really like the record in which he plays the 24 preludes and fugues of Chostakovitch. I can sort of hear how he thinks when he plays his solo stuff, at least his harmonic and rhythmic inspirations. I am a huge fan of Chostakovitch and particularly of his Preludes and Fugues. So listening to Keith Jarrett playing them was a beautiful experience. I keep listening to that record.”


Check out Keith Jarrett trio (w/ Jack Dejohnette & Gary Peacock) live in 1986 on Qwest TV


 

BILL LAURANCE

“His solo stuff is where you get the real Keith, something I’m discovering through my own solo performances. Ultimately, it’s probably the most profound context within which to perform. At any moment, you can change a key or a chord. It’s the ultimate kind of creative freedom and Keith’s solos are the optimal example of that.”

Like tasting whole new flavors

“The record I always come back to is the Koln Concert. It’s my go to when it comes to Keith. He’s one of the only piano players that actually stands up while playing piano. It’s such a physical experience to watch him play! You can see the degree to which he is engaged in the physicality of the instrument and it makes him completely compelling and addictive to watch. I was watching a video of him just the other day, playing “Danny Boy.” He can take such a simple song like that and retain its pure essence and beauty, whilst stirring it up with such unexpected and unpredictable harmonies! It makes it feel richer and heavier, really! It’s a bit like having a meal that you never had before, tasting whole new flavors. He manages to find those harmonies and chords in such a unique way.”

Dedication to the note

“But the most compelling thing about him is his dedication to the note. You’ll never see him play a note that he doesn’t really mean! His commitment to his choice of melody is really captivating. It makes you think that he could play anything and you would be gripped. He plays with such unmistakable and unquestionable conviction!”

Harmonic Liberty

“He strikes that balance between maintaining the original content and stretching it harmonically in such a way that is just enough to keep you engaged without pushing you away. It’s just the right amount of harmonic liberty. It’s also his use of countermelodies within his progressions. It’s the way he’ll fix a chord an use moving notes to utilize the new harmony. It’s not just block chords, there’s always melodic content in reharmonization that keeps the listener engaged.”

“if it moves you then it will probably move someone else too!”

“Being a master piano soloist is basically about being in touch with your emotions. And he is so in touch with what he wants to play. It’s about being a good communicator and what you feel has to be real. You can’t just play with feeling because you’ve been told to do so. It has to come from a genuine place. And ultimately I find that it’s a place of love. As Quincy Jones likes to say, “if it moves you then it will probably move someone else too!”. The goal is to find the thing that moves you and then to put that on record. I think Keith Jarrett is a master of articulating what has moved him.”

 

YARON HERMAN

“When I started playing the piano at aged sixteen, Keith was my first real musical revelation. At the time I knew nothing at all and at the end of my first lesson my teacher gave me a VHS tape with a label on it written in English: “Here we can listen to God Himself playing the piano”. Let’s just say that I was inspired from the very beginning! It featured his one hundredth solo concert, in Japan, and it seemed like he just played classic after classic. His level of commitment, his intent, his emotions, harmonic complexities, rhythms–everything combined to give me the slap of a lifetime. It was sublime perfection on every level. I wanted to dissect it, to understand how it worked. For me, Keith became a beacon of light in the darkness.”

Improvisation as a matrix

“We can see the evolution of the piano in Keith Jarrett: the bop, free jazz, the influence of Americana and the European scene. He synthesises different approaches to jazz but you can always see the link to the source. He engages with European classical music like no other jazz pianist, He has the ability to take improvisation and to use it as a matrix which incorporates other disciplines. Improvisation, in both free jazz and bop, exists within structures. But for Keith, improvisation becomes the structure, encasing all things good.”

“That is no small feat! Especially when you realise that the Köln Concert is the best selling instrumental album of all time and it is totally improvised!”

He remains untouchable

“Keith’s musical culture is incomparable! I don’t know any pianist who has recorded Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Handel, who has written for string quartets, for concertos, who did a double improvisational album for the clavichord (for me his best), who plays the flute, the sax, the guitar, who sings … The musical spectrum of this man is simply terrifying! You have to be an early riser to develop a skill set like this. For now, he remains untouchable.”

A matter of life and death

“His total and spiritual engagement with music makes him a master soloist. He plays like it’s the last time he’ll ever play. It’s a matter of life and death for Keith and that is reflected in the music. We behave differently if we are in the moment, right in the volatility and impermanence of the present moment. Things resonate differently. When he plays a chord that sounds incredible–in reality it is rarely complicated. His sublime feel for the notes, however, is what is special. He is not imposing himself on music. That is the difference, he lets the music flow through him.”

 

 


Keith Jarrett, La Fenice (ECM)

Watch Keith Jarrett trio – Live at Estival Jazz on Qwest TV.

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