Piano Street Magazine

The End of an Era: Keith Jarrett’s Return to his Roots

December 26th, 2020 in Piano News by | 4 comments

Keith Jarrett, one of the greatest musicians and profilistic pianists of our time, has recently announced that he will no longer be able to hold up his career as a performer. Now 75, he suffered a pair of draining strokes two years ago that left his left side paralyzed and resulting in an unability to play the piano. The recently released “Budapest Concert” – a return to his grandparents’ native country Hungary – is likely one of Jarrett’s final recorded public solo piano recitals.

Jarrett said to New Your Times in October: “I was paralyzed. My left side is still partially paralyzed. I’m able to try to walk with a cane, but it took a long time for that… took a year or more. And I’m not getting around this house at all, really.” He goes on to reveal that despite efforts to play with just his right hand, “I don’t know what my future is supposed to be. I don’t feel right now like I’m a pianist. That’s all I can say about that.”

Improvised Solo Recitals

As a performer, belonging to the global top segment of jazz pianists, Jarrett covered a multitude of genres throughout the years. He stands out as the inventor of the improvised solo recital with a series of unmatched recordings in this genre displaying wanderings in territories such as traditions of jazz and other genres like Western classical music, gospel, blues and ethnic folk music. In 1973 the ECM label organized an 18-concert European tour, consisting solely of Jarrett’s solo improvisations. The result was the landmark recording, “The Köln Concert” (1975), a double album with worldwide sales estimated at 3.5 million copies. Even if ”The Köln Concert” from 1975 has become a reference known by everybody it was actually precursed by the solo albums “Facing You” (1971), “Bremen/Lausanne” (1973).

Since his “Köln Concert” in 1975, which is the most sold jazz record ever, the solo recital wizardry continued with albums such as “Sun Bear Concerts” (1978), “ Dark Intervals” (1988), “Paris Concert” (1990), “Vienna Concert” (1992), “La Scala” (1997), “Tokyo ’96” (1998), “The Carnegie Hall Concert” (2006), “Paris/London – Testament” (2009), “ Rio” (2011), “Creation” (2015) and “A Multitude of Angels” (2016).

The European Tour 2016

His most recent tour took place in Europe in 2016 and included a concert in the Bela Bartok National Concert Hall, Budapest. He described the “Budapest Concert” (released in October 2020) as the “gold standard” by which all of his solo concerts to date would have to be measured. Together with the “Munich 2016” album, recorded at Munich’s Philharmonieon on the last night of the same tour, it will likely symbolize a final tribute to his outstanding capacity as a solo pianist in a genre which he created and which has become the trademark of his career.

The embrace of folkloric music by Bartok and other Hungarian composers further nudged Mr. Jarrett toward a dark quality — “a kind of existential sadness, let’s say, a deepness” — powerfully present in the concert’s first half. The second half, as admirers of “The Köln Concert” will appreciate, features a few of Mr. Jarrett’s most ravishing on-the-spot compositions. Those ballads, like “Part V” and “Part VII,” spark against briskly atonal or boppish pieces, gradually building the case for a mature expression that might not have been possible earlier in his career.
— NY Times

He is “like a centaur – half man, half piano,” the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently wrote about Jarrett’s solo concerts, adding that he “melted into the instrument and bent the keys to make them wail like an old blues guitar.” According to his biographer Wolfgang Sandner, he is the “greatest piano improviser of our time.”

Jarrett as a classical pianist

As one of the most unique profiles in over half a century of jazz, Keith Jarrett’s output has been profound as well as versatile. As a classical pianist with explorations of the baroque organ, clavichord, harpsichord, string quartet, Jarrett has recorded some seventeen albums ranging a broad palette of music history: Bach, Händel, Mozart, Shostakovich, Harrison, Pärt and Barber offer wide and interesting interpretational journeys widely appreciated and very often discussed.

Listen to Jarrett’s classical discography available on Piano Street / Naxos (for Gold Members):

Click the album cover to listen to the complete album.
This feature is available for Gold members of pianostreet.com

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Read more about Keith Jarrett:

NY Times: Keith Jarrett Confronts a Future Without the Piano

The Köln Concert

Interview with Keith Jarrett

Listen to the complete Budapest Concert on YouTube.

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  • Mary Blendick says:

    When I try to listen to the Keith Jarret video Arvo Part it says the video is only available to Premium Members, but Piano Street says as a Gold Member…which I am…I can listen. I’m confused!

  • Ted Jones says:

    This is horrible news. Whatever one thinks of his playing his contribution in raising free improvisation to its rightful artistic position is immense and liberating. I am deeply saddened.

  • Stuart Farrance says:

    A true genius that inspired me from my youth and still today, I named my baby grand Keith, in honour of this man,
    Thank you mr Jarrett for your amazing music and sharing it with the world,
    Siggy ❤️❤️❤️

  • Emilio Fan says:

    Keith is definitely a giant pianist and musician of all time, god bless him safe.

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