Dec 29, 2009
Last month celebrates the 40th anniversary of ECM Records, and I offered a number of postings featuring music from this iconic label, including a new CD by Jan Garbarek. For me, one artist represents ECM better than any other - Keith Jarrett.
Jarrett had learned his craft playing with Art Blakey and Charles Lloyd, before joining Miles Davis as one of two electric keyboard players in his band that recorded Jack Johnson and played at The Cellar Door concerts in December 1970.
When Jarrett left Miles, he rebelled against electric music, recording several significant albums of Impulse! Records with his "American Quartet" of Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums) and Dewey Redman (saxophone). In 1975, he signed with ECM, where the bulk of his recordings have been released. He has chosen basically three different ways of recording at ECM. His "European Quartet" of Jan Garbarek (sax), Palle Danielsson (bass) and Jon Christensen (drums) served as his outlet for avant-garde music, while his solo records (most notably the sublime The Koln Concert) and his "Standards Trio" records are far more accessible.
It's not possible to document the importance of Jarrett's piano playing on today's Jazz musicians in one podcast. His style is impressionistic, yet he can take standards apart and re-arrange them in new and exciting ways. His solo performances are legendary and his improvisational concert recordings have become classics. I had the pleasure of seeing one of his imprivsational performances in 1980 at the University of Massachusetts, and I count it as one of my favorite concerts.
His lastest solo recordings comes in a 3 disc package entitled Paris/London: Testament. Liner notes to the album indicate that Jarrett was under the serious strain of a recent separation from his wife when the concerts were recorded in late December 2008. The results are two very different improvised recordings, both of very high quality.
The Paris concert is a languid, sometimes dissonant affair, allowing Jarrett the time and space to cover the length and breadth of the keyboard. His playing is as active as ever here - his left hand finds a groove he likes and stays with it for stretches at a time, while his right hand explores.
London is different. It's a more reflective, and at times bluesy. Click here to listen to the third section of the concert, and you'll know what I mean. It is followed by a fourth section that has a dizzying display of right hand, and a series of short sections that bring the crowd to their feet with their feeling and dexterity.