Keith Jarrett - piano
This extraordinary solo piano concert represents a missing link in the massive discography of the prolific and iconic pianist-composer Keith Jarrett. Sandwiched in between the two dates represented on his first live solo recording for ECM Records, 1973's Solo Concerts: Bremen and Lausanne, this June 30th performance at Philharmonic Hall (as part of 1973's Newport Jazz Festival in New York) came after the March 20th solo performance in Lausanne, Switzerland and two weeks before his July 12th concert in Bremen, Germany. An uninterrupted flow of pure improvisation lasting 30 minutes, this performance is imbued with the same passionate, gospel-tinged phrasing, rhapsodic passages, meditative figures, rapid-fire right handed flourishes and uncommon lyricism that graced his Solo Concerts and his subsequent live solo release, 1975's The Koln Concert, which went on to become the best-selling solo album in jazz history and the all-time best selling piano album, with more than 3.5 million (and counting) sold.
All of Jarrett's solo performances during this period from 1973 to 1975 effectively changed the landscape of jazz by reaching beyond swing and bebop and embracing a new aesthetic that incorporated dramatic use of silence, juxtaposed with driving rhythms and the use of simple, repetitive melodic fragments to essentially 'hook' a much wider audience. And it was all created in a 'carte blanche' state with no preparation, no written charts or musical road maps whatsoever. When Jarrett walked out on stage and sat down at his piano (usually his preferred Bosendorfer grand), it was the musical equivalent of diving of a cliff blind. But invariably, he was able to craft a continuous piece of inspired music guided only by trust in his consummate skills and fueled by his unyielding daredevil spirit. His solo concert at Philharmonic Hall was no exception. You can hear the typical right-handed flourishes at the 3-minute mark, the usual meditative repetition at the 5:40 mark, the delicate touch over a spacious rubato section at the 8:11 mark. Then at the 11:11 mark he breaks into the driving rhythms and effervescent gospel flavored flurries that sound like a precursor to some of his playing on The Koln Concert. This forceful passage carries on for a full three minutes before he launches into a probing single note run that pushes the envelope harmonically, allowing Jarrett to freely extrapolate before returning to the driving gospel-tinged theme at the 15:55 mark. By 18:55, he begins to open up the form to a different muse, and by 19:55 he immerses the listener in cascading arpeggios that create a shimmering effect. The last ten minutes of this Philharmonic concert have the pianist conjuring up a singable, six-note motif in his right hand on top of an ostinato laid down with his left hand. The sheer repetition of this figure creates a mesmerizing drone that lulls the listener into a meditative state. By 27:27, that single note drone intensifies until it sounds like a tamboura. A few more flourishes in the right hand, gradual fade to silence, applause --another in-the-moment masterpiece.
Born on May 8, 1945 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Jarrett began playing piano at age three and started classical studies at age eight. He briefly attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and later went to Paris to study classical music with famed pianist Nadia Boulanger. In 1964, he decided to move to New York to become a jazz musician. His first important gig, with Art Blakey's New Jazz Messengers, lasted until 1966. At that point, he joined Charles Lloyd's quartet and the group tapped into a huge crossover market with such popular recordings as 1966's Forest Flower and 1967's Love-In, both of which caught on with the burgeoning hippie audience. Jarrett left Lloyd's group in 1968 and issued his first solo recording, Restoration Ruin, a folk-rock outing which had him playing soprano saxophone, harmonica, drums and guitar in addition to piano and also featured him singing. From 1970 to 1971, Jarrett played organ and electric piano in Miles Davis' volatile electric group (appearing on such landmark albums as Live/Evil, Live at the Fillmore and Get Up With It). In 1971, he recorded The Mourning of a Star with drummer Paul Motian and bassist Charlie Haden and the following year released his first solo studio recording, Facing You. Tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman joined Jarrett's trio on 1972's Birth and the quartet followed with a string of potent releases on the Impulse label, including 1973's Fort Yawuh, 1974's Treasure Island, 1975's Backhand, 1976's Mysteries, 1977's Bya Blueand 1978's Bop-Be. While he remained busy with his American quartet, Jarrett also maintained a European quartet with Scandanavian musicians Jan Garbarek on saxophone, Palle Danielsson on bass and Jon Christiansen on drums (documented on 1974's In the Light, 1978's My Song and 1979's Eyes of the Heart).
In 1983, Jarrett began playing with the so-called Standards Trio featuring Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. They have continued working together for 30 years, releasing 20 albums over the past three decades. Jarrett has also made several classical recordings and continues to document his evocative solo concerts, most recently on 2011's Rio.