Sunday, November 24, 2019

Keith Jarrett - Munich 2016 (ECM, 2016)

Pianist Keith Jarrett has recorded many solo albums over the course of his career, it is a challenge that continually calls to him. This particular concert was recorded on the last night of a 2016 European tour in Munich, the hometown of his longtime record label, ECM. Jarrett spontaneously improvises a twelve part suite that incorporates elements of jazz, classical and soul music into a successful performance. Despite recent health issues, the pianist is clearly feeling strong and in his element. On "Part I" he comes out with his foot on the gas, building and coalescing form from a nebulous opening into showers of notes developing a complex web of improvisation. Like gravitational waves emanating out from this original burst, the music undulates and flows with its own unique language and logic. The music tumbles relentlessly forward with Jarrett making use of the entire instrument, kneading the lower end of the keyboard to produce darker chords mixed with bright fast single note runs from the upper end of the keyboard. "Part IV" has elements of soul and the blues which were present in his earlier playing and the music swings pleasantly, along with his raspy vocalizations. It's a short piece, but interesting in that it seems to be a personal one to him in that he is pushing his feelings into it , he raises the volume and the syncopation of the performance, really driving himself to the conclusion. By contrast, "Part V" is a spacious ballad piece, with the very notes hanging in the air, the music is gentle and patient and he allows the performance to develop in its own time. Jarrett gracefully develops it further adding more lush elements to what has become quite a romantic undertaking, but it never becomes cloying or sentimental, but dances gracefully to its conclusion. "Part VII" is very short but memorable, as he once again hits the ground running, creating on the fly at high speed, playing at a very fast pace, up and down the keyboard in a most impressive and exciting manner, but before you have time to catch your breath, its over. Returning to the more accessible swing "Part IX" shows Jarrett playing what amounts to soulful hard bop, perhaps a flashback to the music he made for Atlantic and with Charles Lloyd in the 1960's. Regardless, it's enjoyable, and moreover, he sounds like he's having fun, which is something that doesn't always come through on his albums. Rock solid bass chords underpin an exploratory right hand, creating good stuff. Rippling piano like waves of water or desert sand are the metaphor for "Part XII" played with great dexterity and facility, Jarrett keeps the music in continuous motion and played very fast, his skill in performing is undeniable, and his hands must have been a blur of motion. He finishes the performance with three with three rather sentimental standards, the finale, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" being particularly poignant as he gradually introduces the familiar melody playing on the razors edge of sentimentality with out tipping into mawkishness and closing this excellent concert in fine style. Munich 2016 - amazon.com

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