In this in-depth portrait of one the world's superstars of jazz, pianist Keith Jarrett talks the range of his music, the importance of improvisation, the great artists he has worked with, and about the highs and lows of his life. Further insights are provided by fellow musicians, family members and other musical associates. Incorporating recordings and rare archive footage of concerts dating back to the 1960s and including such greats as Miles Davis and Charles Lloyd, this first-ever major documentary has been made with the full cooperation of Keith Jarrett himself.
Thanks in no small part to ECM founder Manfred Eicher's patience and indulgence, here we have another of Keith Jarrett's myriad of "special projects" – two CDs of music recorded on a clavichord. This carries Jarrett's anti-electric crusade to a real extreme, the clavichord being a keyboard from J.S. Bach's day, obsolete for over 200 years. The instrument produces a gentle pinging sound like a harpsichord crossed with a zither (the amplified Hohner Clavinet is the closest sound in our time), and Jarrett occasionally tries to stretch the instrument's limited possibilities, hammering percussively on the close-miked strings. Yet for the most part, Jarrett reins in his world-class technique in order to make unpretentiously minimal music on this ancient keyboard. Some of it sounds like folk music, some like new age contemplation, there are convincing neo-baroque musings, and a few of these untitled though numbered selections kick into a higher gear. Sometimes this music is charming; a lot of the time, it gets wearisome. But hey, they also laughed when Keith started putting out massive sets of solo piano…
Keith Jarrett weaves a special kind of spell in his improvisations, one somehow connected to a greater humanity, for though the music and playing are ethereal, one is never mistaken that they are anything but earthly. Jarrett is not a mere vessel, but a creative force of flesh and bone whose fingers speak in ways we can only understand without words. This live recording from Tokyo’s Suntory Hall expands that flesh, and feels so intimate it might as well have grown away from others in the cave of his private studio.
Keith Jarrett's first solo acoustic piano recording remains one of his best. At this point in late 1971, Jarrett had just started improvising completely freely. That does not mean that his solos were necessarily atonal but simply that they were not planned in any way in advance. The music on these eight improvisations are often quite melodic, very rhythmic and bluesy. This set makes for a perfect introduction to Jarrett's many solo piano recordings.
Jarrett's 1970s albums may have confused some purists but they should be a goldmine for contemporary fans of all stripes who like improvised music. El Juicio is an excellent early Jarrett album and finds him in typically eclectic form with his classic American quartet. I nominate the opener, "Gypsy Moth," as the best piece on the record. Sounding a little like a more confident version of "Lisbon Stomp," from Jarrett's 1967 debut album Life Between the Exit Signs, Jarrett first whips up a rollicking theme on the piano and then switches to soprano sax towards the end, the rhythm section swinging hard throughout.
“The Bregenz/Munich concerts were Jarrett’s most brilliant live solo recordings to date; his level of inspiration is quite extraordinary, and the music covers a wider musical and emotional range than ever.” – Jarrett biographer Ian Carr
With saxophonist Jan Garbarek and bassist Charlie Haden along for the ride, Keith Jarrett indulges in three slow, rambling, meditative, vaguely neo-classical concertos for piano and string orchestra. While a few of Jarrett's and Garbarek's passages here and there have a syncopated jazz feeling, this is mostly contemporary classical music, perhaps even somewhat ahead of its time (it might fit in with the neo-Romantic and minimalist camps today). However, although this music can be attractive in small doses, the lack of tempo or texture contrasts over long stretches of time – particularly the nearly 28-minute "Mirrors" – can be annoying if you're not in the right blissful mood. Mladen Gutesha and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra perform the string parts with what can only be described as commendable patience.