Sunday, May 17, 2015

(A Highly Personal List of ) Essential Keith Jarrett Recordings 

As I am sitting upstairs with half an hour to spare & Jarrett's music is on my mind ... why not a heavily selective set of recommendations?

My choices are definitely influenced by repeated listening over a good twenty to thirty years. & you'll notice that none of the Trio recordings feature. It's not that I don't like them, but there's nothing that has entered my blood stream quite like the records below. Difficult, too, to separate when & where (& who with?) I first listened to this music. While CDs remain unblemished, the vinyl records stand testament to many happy & unhappy hours.



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For me, some of the most joyful music Jarrett has ever produced. While I am not a great fan of Garbarek's sax sound (to my ear often jarringly just out of tune) here the quartet are playing beautifully. The cover, too, is lodged in my memory - the rather unusual (for ECM) holiday snap against the immediately recognisable Barbara Wojirsch runic calligraphy. 

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Gets short shrift in the Penguin Guide & I suspect many people don't like Jarrett on electric piano. However, I love this record & the interplay with deJohnette is wonderfully unstated. Certain rhythmic patterns have lodged deep in my veins. 

Admittedly 'untypical' (like Spirits) but none the worse for that. 

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The My Song line-up but this time live. It was recorded in 1979 but only issued a couple of years ago - not sure why. For me this is superior to the highly-rated Survivor Suite & other releases by the same quartet. The shift some 13 minutes into the first track is one of THE GREAT Jarrett moments. (I notice Geoff Dyer raves about it, too). 

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I have listened to this again & again & - like Ruta & Daitya - there are melodies & rhythms that have gone very deep indeed. An early Jarrett & full of intimations of what was to come. It's interesting to play this with the later 'rehabilitation' recording The Melody At Night, With You - the tentative frailty of the later disc against the utter cockiness & dazzle of the earlier. The black & white covers seem to invite comparison themselves.

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It's not a false claim to say that I discovered this before everyone else (at least amongst the people I knew in the 80s) & certainly before every bloody cafė, restaurant, bar & TV soundtrack editor. Like Miles' Kind of Blue it has been played to death to the point where you wonder if you can hear it - really hear it - again. 

I remember being sat down by (what a friend once described as) a 'near Miss' & told I just had to listen to the bit where ... & suffering a lengthy description of how her new boyfriend had played it in the car driving back from Stratford. Not wishing to be churlish, I had to point out that I had played it to her six months before but (clearly) to lesser effect ... ("If music be the food of love ..." Yeah, right.) 

I don't care what anyone says, this is THE ONE. Were everything else he recorded to be swept away The Köln Concert would stand alone. That we now know that he was suffering acute back pain & that the upper & lower registers of the piano were out of tune only makes the achievement all the more astonishing. 

The Quintessence of Keith, one of the great recordings not only in Jazz but in any genre. 

If you've not heard it a) where have you been? b) lucky you! - what a treat is in store. 





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