Pianist, composer, and bandleader Keith Jarrett is one of the most prolific, innovative, and iconoclastic musicians to emerge from the late 20th century. As a pianist (though that is by no means the only instrument he plays) he literally changed the conversation in jazz by introducing an entirely new aesthetic regarding solo improvisation in concert. Though capable of playing in a wide variety of styles, Jarrett is deeply grounded in the jazz tradition.
Two of vibraphonist Gary Burton's albums from 1969-1970 are reissued in full on this single CD. Burton teams up with pianist Keith Jarrett for five numbers (including four of Jarrett's originals) in 1970, using a quintet that also features guitarist Sam Brown, bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Bill Goodwin. The other session has more of an avant-country flavor, with Burton, Swallow, and Goodwin joined by guitarist Jerry Hahn and violinist Richard Greene; Michael Gibbs and Swallow contributed most of the obscurities. Burton was at his most explorative during this period, which is why he can be considered one of the pioneers of fusion (although his music never really fit into a tight category). This is excellent music that mostly still sounds fresh.
This gargantuan package – a ten-LP set now compressed into a chunky six-CD box – once was derided as the ultimate ego trip, probably by many who didn't take the time to hear it all. You have to go back to Art Tatum's solo records for Norman Granz in the '50s to find another large single outpouring of solo jazz piano like this, all of it improvised on the wing before five Japanese audiences in Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, and Sapporo. Yet the miracle is how consistently good much of this giant box is.
Never-heard music from the mighty Keith Jarrett – performances recorded in the mid 80s, and featuring Jarrett working in a mix of jazz and classical styles that's pretty darn great! The first piece is Samuel Barber's "Piano Concerto Op 38", performed with the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies – but Jarrett's performance brings an edge and sense of air that recalls some of his own compositions for larger groups from the 70s, especially with Davie at the helm.
The bulk of the DVD is this Berlin concert of 6 November 1971. This is one of the last recorded concerts with this band, which disbanded totally later that month. It features Miles on electric trumpet, Keith Jarrett on electric piano and electric organ, Michael Henderson on electric bass, Leon Chancler on drums, and Mtume and Don Alias on percussion. This band is the last one that has direct links to the "Bitches Brew" era, with Gary Bartz still in the band and Jarrett having taken over the two keyboards when Chick Corea left the band in 1970.
Here we have simplicity itself: a series of piano transcriptions of some solemn, now-dark, now-affirmative religious hymns by one G.I. Gurdjieff, with none of the usual flourishes and heady flights usually associated with Keith Jarrett's solo records. Jarrett assumes the proper devotional position, playing with a steady tread but always with attention to dynamic extremes, producing a gorgeously rich piano tone with plenty of bass. The whole record has a serene dignity, even at its loudest levels, that gets to you, and that should be enough for the devout Jarrett following. As for others…well, it's definitely not a top ten choice for a basic Keith collection.