In 1975, an idiosyncratic musical odyssey called The Köln Concert became the unlikeliest of multimillion-sellers. On that album, Keith Jarrett revealed how an unplanned, unplugged and uncommercial private meditation between just him and a traditional piano could mesmerise listeners all over the world. Jarrett has also played plenty of classical music and ensemble jazz with stars including Miles Davis and Charles Lloyd. But he has fearlessly cherished the no-hiding-place art of solo-piano improvisation, as witnessed by live albums including 2006’s Carnegie Hall Concert, 2011’s Rio and, of course, that 1975 opus. In 2018, two successive strokes ruthlessly halted that spontaneous alchemy, which makes this final Jarrett solo performance, recorded in July 2016, something special.
Jarrett, definitely not known to be a schmoozer, reportedly complimented the Bordeaux crowd on how receptive it was, and rightly so. They patiently but expectantly clap for the long, probing opener’s darting free-improv fragments, glittery treble tinklings and wistful chords, as Jarrett gets the feel of the instrument and the room. When a slowly rocking gospel hook emerges in Part III, whistles and yelps break out, and when the frenziedly-spinning minimalist loops of Part V stop dead, the audience erupts. In the end, everything from the softest improvised ballads to the most exuberantly hard-stomping blues draw grateful accolades – the sound of an audience’s thanks for a one-off music that belonged only to their presence with Jarrett, in that space, on that unique evening.
Also out this month
In These Times (International Anthem/Nonesuch/XL), is a landmark multi-genre fusion seven years in the making from acclaimed Chicago drummer/producer Makaya McCraven. Jazz, hip-hop, east European folk music, classical strings, spoken word and McCraven’s own calm intensity at the drums intertwine in these imaginative rearrangements of studio and live takes. The Bad Plus (Edition Records) features classy new recruits to the long-running band in saxophonist Chris Speed and guitarist Ben Monder – the latter a collaborator on David Bowie’s Blackstar – joining originals Reid Anderson (bass) and Dave King (drums) on a quirky, still unmistakably Bad Plus tracklist.
The unstoppably funky Snarky Puppy unleash Empire Central (Groundup Music), reconnecting in Dallas with their blues, prog, R&B and jazzily devious roots, while the UK’s R&B-steeped young jazz generation release new takes on classic Blue Note hits with Blue Note Re:imagined II (Blue Note Records). The sensuous delicacy of Cherise’s cover of Norah Jones’s Sunrise and Sons of Kemet tubist Theon Cross’s skiddy, graunching account of Thelonious Monk’s Epistrophy are two diametrically contrasting delights.