Keith Jarrett - piano; Dewey Redman - tenor sax; Charlie Haden - bass; Paul Motian - drums
In his fourth appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival (he had previously appeared in 1967 as a member of Charles Lloyd's quartet, performed solo in 1973 and appeared with his quintet in 1974), pianist-composer Keith Jarrett continued to ride a wave of popularity that would only increase dramatically with the release of The Koln Concert, one of the best-selling solo albums of all time, at the end of the year. With a potent quartet consisting of two former members of Ornette Coleman's group in tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman and bassist Charlie Haden, along former Bill Evans drummer Paul Motian, Jarrett and his crew performed material from 1975's Shades (which has since gone out of print and is only available now as Japanese import).
Jarrett's quartet opens this July 3rd performance with a ruminative solo piano improvisation that gradually develops into an energized workout on the keys before returning to the evocative theme. By the 5:24 mark, Jarrett segues abruptly to the fully developed solo piano piece "In Front" (from his 1971 ECM album, Facing You). Following a drum barrage from Motian, the band then jumps into "Shades of Jazz," one of Jarrett's most memorable and swinging compositions. Jarrett and Redman double on the head while Haden's insistent walking bass lines propel the tune behind Jarrett's swinging solo. Following a repeat of the head, Redman takes off on an exhilarating, bold-toned tenor solo with Haden's grooves still providing the rhythmic propulsion underneath Motian's incessantly swinging ride cymbal work.
Jarrett next settles into a soulful heartland melody on solo piano as the intro to the evocative "Rose Petals." Motian's free drumming on this rubato piece serves as a perfect rhythmic foil for Jarrett's and Redman's tightly crafted unisons and rhapsodic soloing here. Motian stretches out considerably on an unaccompanied drum solo that kicks off the Ornette Coleman-influenced number "Diatribes," which has Jarrett swinging fervently and soloing with remarkable virtuosity. Redman adds some heat of his own on this uptempo burner that straddles the inside-outside aesthetic with some passionate tenor blowing that tips over into the Albert Ayler zone. This intensely freewheeling piece concludes as it started, with a frantic fusillade on the kit by Motian. The quartet next tackles Jarrett's soulful, grooving, gospel flavored "Southern Smiles," an earthy number which seems more indebted to soul-jazz pioneer Les McCann than avant-garde pioneer Ornette Coleman. Redman's tenor solo here is suitably gritty and full of the funk factor. This Newport Jazz Festival concert closes on a poignant note with a delicate waltz-time number that opens with solo piano and builds to a moving crescendo as the band enters midway through.
One of the most revered player-composers of the past 40 years, Jarrett has produced a body of work that profoundly influenced generations of musicians on all instruments. He is among just a handful of jazz pianists who can consistently fill major concert halls all over the world. And his luminous, heart-wrenching performances leave fans swooning. Over his enigmatic career, Jarrett has cultivated the knack of 'disappearing into the music,' and his fans go on that journey with him at each concert. Influenced by pianists Bill Evans and Paul Bley, the melodic free jazz of Ornette Coleman, and 20th century classical composers Bela Bartok, Alban Berg and Maurice Ravel, Jarrett created a fresh vocabulary on his instrument marked by long streams of singing legato lines and rhapsodic, sweeping moods along with a funky, vamp-based comping style. And while he remains respected by musicians and beloved by fans, his enfant terrible confrontations with audiences about the distractions of coughing and flash photography are well documented.
Born of Hungarian and Scottish descent on M a y 8 , 1 9 4 5 , i n A l l e n t o w n , P e n n s y l v a n i a, Jarrett g a v e h i s f i r s t classical p i a n o r e c i t a l a t a g e s e v e n. By his teens, he began playing jazz, inspired by Dave Brubeck. At age 18, he went to Boston's Berklee College of Music, where he studied for a year while playing trio gigs on the local scene. Moving to New York in 1965, he spent four months with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers before gaining worldwide exposure, from 1966 to 1969, with the popular Charles Lloyd Quartet. The phenomenal success of Lloyd's 1966 album Forest Flower crossed over to the hippie audience, gaining the group high profile appearances at The Fillmore and the Monterery Jazz Festival. It was in Lloyd's quartet that Jarrett met drummer Jack DeJohnette, who would become a key collaborator in later years.
After leaving L l o y d's quartet, Jarrett joined M i l e s D a v i s' volatile g r o u p, playing o r g a n a n d e l e c t r i c p i a n o on such landmark recordings as Live-Evil, L i v e a t t h e F i l l m o r e E a s t and Get Up With It. (He can also be heard on the Miles Davis compilations Directions, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions and T h e C e l l a r D o o r S e s s i o n s ). While Jarrett's contributions on those bombastic outings was outstanding, he permanently swore off electric keyboards upon leaving Miles' group in 1971, choosing instead to head down the purist's path. In 1971, he recorded the stirring solo album, Facing You, and on January 24, 1975 he performed a daring, purely improvisational solo piano concert at the Cologne Opera House in Germany. It was subsequently released on ECM as The Koln Concert, attaining cult-like status through the '70s and eventually becoming the best-selling solo album of all time (3.5 million copies).
In the '70s, Jarrett developed a distinctive quartet sound with his quartet of tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian, drawing from the avant-garde while revealing traces of folk, rock, country and gospel music on 1972's Expectations, 1973's Fort Yawuh and 1974's Treasure Island. Concurrently, Jarrett maintained a European quartet consisting of Norwegian tenor saxophonist Jan Garbarek, Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson and Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen. They explored a different muse that mined Scandanavian folk themes on 1974's Belonging, 1975's Personal Mountains and 1977's My Song.
For the past 25 years, Jarrett has interpreted gorgeous tunes from the American Songbook with his interactive Standards Trio featuring bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Together they have demonstrated near-telepathic chemistry on a string of acclaimed recordings for ECM, including 1983's Standards, Vol. 1 & 2, 1985's Standards Live, 1991's Tribute and Bye Bye Blackbird, 2004's The Out-of-Towners, 2007's My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux and 2009's Yesterdays. Jarrett's most recent outing, 2010's Jasmine, is an intimate duet encounter with his '70s collaborator, bassist Charlie Haden.
-Written by Bill Milkowski