Keith Jarrett ‘Munich 2016’ 2LP/2CD (ECM) 5/5

A solo concert recording from pianist Keith Jarrett is always something exciting to anticipate, and this latest recording, from Munich’s Philharmonic Hall on July 16th, 2016, doesn’t disappoint. Jarrett’s solo performances form a unique and continually evolving body of work. An extraordinary musical journey that can be traced back to 1973’s “Solo Concerts Bremen- Lausanne”, with high points that include the now famous “The Koln Concert”, the inspirational “Sun Bear Concerts”, and wonderful “Paris Concert”, “Vienna Concert” et al, it is incredible to think that Jarrett is still capable of improvising at such a high level, and “Munich 2016” gifts the world with some startlingly beautiful and original music, adding yet more weight to the many decades of sensationally inventive music the pianist has produced.

The shape of Jarrett’s individual concerts has been transformed, the large arc of the early concerts, with unbroken improvisations spanning an entire set, giving way to performances made up of discrete, tightly focussed spontaneous compositions. Since Jarrett embarked on this quest the number of solo improvisers has multiplied exponentially yet his sense for developing motifs and melodies remains unparalleled. “Munich 2016” is something of a hybrid performance, taking the listener on a journey back in time to the earlier free-flowing lyricism of The Koln Concert, through to a more classical leaning, and a growing maturity that was to be heard on Vienna Concert, and into a new dawn of playfulness.

The first cd covers Parts 1 to 7 of the concert. Whilst Part 1 is a typically challenging Jarrett piece, Parts 2 to 7 feature some of the most melodically accessible and beautifully crafted music that Jarrett has performed in years. The stunning elegance of each piece he performs is matched by its purity and originality. From deep bluesy foot-tapping joyfulness to some of the most achingly, heart-wrenchingly beautiful music you will ever hear. As with much of Jarrett’s best offerings, the yearning melancholia is wonderfully and intuitively mixed with fresh hope and a sense of an ultimately uplifting essence, resulting in a life-affirming musical listening experience.

Cd 2 delivers Parts 8 to 12, along with 3 encore pieces. Continuing in the same vein as the first half the concert, Jarrett is in fine fettle, creating little passages of heartbreakingly gorgeous melodies combined with longer, repeating motifs that twist and turn as only Jarrett could make them do. Genius is not a word that should be used unless truly warranted, but yet again there is no better word to describe this musical innovator. One thing that Jarrett has become even more well known for over the years is his encores. The 3 encore tunes here remind us why. “Answer me, my love” takes me away on its warm-hearted journey of love and affection, and “It’s a lonesome old town” is darkly romantic with its blues-tinged melody tugging at the heartstrings, joyously bitter-sweet. It is though, perhaps Jarrett’s most defining piece that steals the show, as it has done on several occasions over the years, with another spellbinding performance of “Somewhere over the rainbow”.

Mike Gates

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