Friday, May 13, 2005

I like Keith Jarrett

One of the two women I lived with my senior year of college was a pianist. She and I used to play music together sometimes--I accompanied her piano playing with a djembe or drum set. How collegeish. But we made some lovely music, and it was lovely to us because, at its best, it vaguely, hopefully echoed Keith Jarrett's solo piano concerts. (That's not to say we played anything that really resembled Jarrett, only that, when we sounded good, we thought we sounded good because we thought we sounded like Jarrett).

Anyway, that roommate introduced me to Jarrett's music early that year, via the Koln Concert, and I very quickly fell in love with the deep and sweeping melodies that characterized the solo concerts. It took me a little longer to get my head around the more fragmented and complex reimaginings of the Standards Trio (which features Jack Dejonette, one of my, and every other drummer's, heroes), but many of those albums, especially the Tokyo '96 concert, have made indelible impressions on me.

And so, through the last six years of music-listening, which have taken me through intense preoccupations with jazz interspersed with prolonged forays into rock, I have kept up with Jarrett's new work, and was even lucky enough to see the Standards Trio (from almost inexplicably high up) at Carnegie Hall. At the moment, I'm listening to his new album, "Radiance," Jarrett's first solo piano concert recording in more than a decade.

It's more fragmented and less melodic than his previous concerts, which, according to his liner notes, is his goal. The same has recently been true of the Trio, which released an album or two of hard-to-follow, but ultimately rewarding improvisations in the last few years. I'm not sure how the album works on me yet, but the second disc is more melodic and lyrical than the first. I'm glad to have this new music, though. Jarrett, like Joni Mitchell, Zappa, Bill Frissell, Gillian Welch, and a few other artists, makes some of the music with which I most deeply identify. I wonder how much that has to do with the fact that, ultimately, he strikes me as an artist who is pretty solopsistic.

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