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Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett’s ECM discography embraces solo improvisation, duets, trios, quartets, original compositions, multi-instrumental ventures, masterpieces of the classical repertoire and wide-ranging explorations of the Great American Songbook.

Jarrett was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in May 1945. He took his first piano lesson before his third birthday and gave his debut solo recital aged seven. “I grew up with the piano,” he has said, “I learned its language while I learned to speak.”

His earliest training was classical, but by the age of 15 his piano lessons had ceased and Jarrett’s interest in jazz was burgeoning. He turned down an opportunity to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and in 1964 took the decisive step of moving to New York to establish himself in the jazz world. After a spell touring with Art Blakey’s New Jazz Messengers, Jarrett joined Charles Lloyd’s quartet in 1966. He also played organ and electric piano with Miles Davis in 1970 and 1971.

Jarrett’s association with ECM dates from November 1971, when he and producer Manfred Eicher first collaborated on the hugely influential solo piano album Facing You, eight short pieces which, in Eicher’s words, “hold together like a suite”. The album also prefigured the solo piano concerts which would be such a defining aspect of Jarrett’s career.

In 1973 ECM organised an eighteen-concert European tour, consisting solely of Jarrett’s solo improvisations. The Köln Concert (1975) has unsurprisingly passed into legend: a multi-million-selling album that has been the subject of books and a complete transcription. But Köln should not eclipse the achievement of the whole sequence of improvised concerts, a genre which Jarrett effectively created. After the success of that first solo tour, Jarrett has continued to pursue the improvised solo concert format, the decades of his career studded with records of his endlessly fertile imagination, usually referred to simply by where they took place: Paris, Vienna, Lausanne, Carnegie Hall, La Scala...

Jarrett has been a member of several outstanding groups. In the mid-1970s he began recording with his so-called “European Quartet” consisting of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen. Their recordings include BelongingMy SongNude Ants, Personal Mountains and Sleeper. No less essential is his contemporaneous “American Quartet” work with Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums) and Dewey Redman (sax), whose output included The Survivors’ Suite and Eyes of the Heart (both 1976).  The American Quartet extended the range of Jarrrett’s trio with Haden and Motian. The early trio’s work is documented on Hamburg ’72.

In the early 1980s Jarrett formed his “Standards Trio” with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, which proved to be one of the most fertile and long-lasting partnerships in jazz history. Over the years they have toured and released an unparalleled series of albums of standards and freely improvised sets, including the 6-CD set At the Blue Note, an extraordinary record of three extraordinary nights in June 1994, about which the New York Times wrote: "Jarrett makes each new note sound like a discovery... The music whispered and glimmered, seeking a pure, incorporeal song.”

In 1987, Jarrett initiated a series of recordings of some of the great monuments of the classical keyboard repertoire with Bach’s Wohltempierte Klavier, Book I, which was followed by the Goldberg Variations (1989) and the second book of Wohltempierte Klavier (1990). For a pianist with such a fine command of voicing, Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, was perhaps a natural next step: "It didn't feel like I was playing someone else's music," Jarrett said of his first encounter with these works. "[The pieces] are coming from some strange quirky place that I'm familiar with.” The New York Times was just one of many to hail this award-winning recording: no mere crossover curiosity, “Jarrett has finally staked an indisputable claim to distinction in the realm of classical music”.

40 years on from his ECM debut, Facing YouRio (2011) blazed with as much energy and invention as any of his solo concerts from the past four decades, while his duet sessions with the late bassist Charlie Haden (Jasmine and Last Dance) reveal the players at their most intimate and introspective: “When we play together it's like two people singing,” Jarrett said of these recordings.

ECM marked Jarrett’s 70th birthday with two simultaneous releases, a mid-80s recording of Barber’s piano concerto and Bartok’s third, and Creation, a nine-piece suite drawn from concerts in the pianist’s 2014 concert tour. Creation is amongst the most strongly lyrical of Jarrett's recent solo releases, the choice of music emphasizing pieces in which there is a sense of song being born, voices striving to be heard. It also offers the most up-to-the minute account of Jarrett's uncanny capacity to construct compelling music in real-time: his melodic-harmonic imagination as an improviser and his ability to consistently find and shape new forms remain, after all these years of solo concerts, remarkable


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Conversations At The Well
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40 jaar ECM

40 jaar ECM

Various Artists

Jan Garbarek Group/Keith Jarrett/Chick Corea
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