Keith Jarrett’s 70th Birthday Present (to Us) – Creation (2015)

Jarrett Creation

Keith Jarrett is 70 years old, and his best known album — The Köln Concert — is 40.  I still remember the first time I heard Köln.  It was about 1978, in a college radio studio on a good set of JBL monitors.  It was a religious experience for me.  That feels like a lame thing to write, but there are ultimately no words.  Yes, I even love the vocalizations, the grunts, the groans, the stomping.  I probably shouldn’t get started.  For some readers it may be off-putting enough that this is not “prog” in any standard sense.  But I can’t let pass the opportunity to tell Keith happy birthday when I have the platform from which to do it, or to call your attention to his latest solo piano disc.  I’m banking on (my prog guru) Brad Birzer’s championing of a broad tent in these matters.  Jarrett’s solo piano music seems to me genre-defying and epic enough, at any rate, for prog sensibilities.

kolnThe title of this latest entry, Creation, is not particularly a surprise from Jarrett, who is primarily known for the lack of distinction in his work between creation and performance.  But there is a surprise here, as Jarrett departs from his whole-concert-uncut approach.  Creation’s movements are selected from several different 2014 concerts, arranged after the fact into a whole.  Jarrett thus “had to become a producer,” as he explains in an interview on NPR.  But it’s still Jarrett as creator, as composer, performing as he produces.

As I listen to Creation, I’m reminded how consistently Jarrett’s work draws my listening beyond what I ordinarily think of as listening.  I hear the music, I drink it in as I do any good music.  But my listening is also pushed to hear itself, to hear in some sense what listening is.  Good listening is an interesting mix between impatience and patience.  Impatience because it needs to be eager, voraciously anticipatory, and open to mystery.  Patience because it wants to trust the artist, to wait for what takes careful preparation and painstaking development.  All of us who listen probably develop comfortable listening styles, familiar ways of moving along the border where impatience and patience meet.  Keith Jarrett has long struck me as one of those artists who play up that border, reminding us that it is a fault-line of a sort, that we can still be knocked over when the ground shifts violently enough.

jarrett playingIf you know Jarrett’s work, but have trouble with patience on his longer solo piano outings, I would especially urge you to give Creation a try.  The shorter-time format of his recent solo efforts tends to concentrate the development and give food to the impatient appetite, but (to my ears) without sacrificing any of the artisan’s craft and care.

Kudos to you, Keith, as you celebrate threescore and ten!  May our gift to you be (im)patient listening!

3 thoughts on “Keith Jarrett’s 70th Birthday Present (to Us) – Creation (2015)

  1. carleolson

    Thanks, Pete, for posting this. I first heard “The Köln Concert” in 1994, and it blew me away. I now have 95% of every Jarrett has recorded. He is, by all accounts, a difficult and even harsh man, but he is also a musical genius. Period. He ranks in the Top 5 or so of jazz pianists in my book, even while his work is outside the realm of jazz.

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