Sunday, January 30, 2011

Keith Jarrett – The Köln Concert

Keith Jarrett is quite unusual jazz musician. He is playing with equal easiness modern jazz, popular ballads, Handel Suites for Keyboard, Preludes by Shostakovich or Mozart piano concertos. He is probably the most flexible jazz piano player in music of some more than last four decades. But what makes him so precious is his freedom of improvising. Almost irresistible, natural flow of musical ideas and technical accuracy made him great sideman for Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Jack de Johnette, Jan Garbarek and many others. Since 1967 he was recording some music under his own name – first album in trio with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian was Life Between the Exit Signs issued in 1967. 
First albums were sometimes just test pieces like the one recorded in 1968. It was rock album Restoration Run where Jarrett plays many instruments and sings. The same year 1968 Atlantic Records published Somewhere Before – live recordings of the trio. In less than ten years pianist became famous. Playing in cocktail clubs of Boston in 1963, in November 10th, 1971 Keith Jarrett record his first studio solo album Facing You published by ECM. This record became the first in the series of studio solo projects in next years, including recordings on piano, clavichord and organ.

Keith Jarrett – The Köln Concert (1975)

Although studio solo albums had very good ratings from critics, this part of Jarrett’s discography was not very best in selling. Maybe it was too ambitious, maybe intellectually over-exacting.  But the real pianist’s success came with live solo albums, especially the very first The Köln Concert. Recorded at the Cologne Opera House on January 24th, 1975, appearance was organized by youngest German promoter Vera Brandes. She selected for Jarrett performance Bösendorfer 290 Imperial, the biggest and most powerful piano build for Ferruccio Busoni in 1900 and in seventies still only piano with 97 keys (8 full octaves). Due to mistake of stagehands only piano set for this evening was Bösendorfer baby grand used for rehearsals and in very poor condition. Artist was decided to cancel the concert, and only enthusiasm of 18-year-old Vera Brandes save this event. Risky undertaking became the great success for artist, promoter and for ECM Records.
Having at his disposal such inefficient instrument, pianist concentrate on rhythmic sturdy ostinatos, sometimes more rock than jazz. Upper registers were so tiny, he was restrained to the middle. It is in fact a series of free improvisations, easily flowing from one pattern to another, guiding listeners through various emotional stages and glimpses. A little bit more than an hour improvising concert from Cologne Opera House became famous. In subsequent years double LP published by ECM Records was sold in 3,5 million copies. Final fragment of the concert was later called Memories of Tomorrow and covering as regular Jarrett’s composition. The entire concert was published in authorized transcription for piano and in recording of transcription for guitar by Manuel Barueco were also available. Keith Jarrett agreed to publish transcription with clause, that notation is only approximate representation of music and main source for studying his improvisations are recordings. Time is also subject of a change.

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