Happy Birthday Keith Jarrett! Now in his seventieth year, ECM have released two completely separate recordings to celebrate the dazzling virtuosity and compositional craft of the musician in both jazz and classical idioms. This is the former and it chronicles a series of solo concerts performed around the globe in autumn and summer of 2014. The fact that Keith Jarrett performs live on his own makes them that extra bit special and recalls those wonderful and seminal albums of the 1970s that first established the pianist as a major talent and one fully capable of appealing to an audience beyond the realms of jazz.
The album is divided up into a kaleidoscope of contrasting moods and these are expressed in the deeply creative, yet equally soulful manner in which one has come to expect of Jarrett. It is to the pianist’s credit that the pieces here are not overly long and stand well side by side. Part II from Tokyo is more delicate, yet also outgoing in tone and there are those who might argue that Keith Jarrett has never lacked in self-belief, but then with his outstanding track record, he might have good reason to feel outward reaching in approach. Contrast this, however, with Part V of the same concert which has something of a 1960s great American songbook to it and it is the lyrical quality of the music that comes shining through and would lend itself to a vocal interpretation. Part IV is an altogether more reposing piece in the Romantic classical tradition, yet even here Jarrett toys with a minor Latin undercurrent that reminds one of Chick Corea’s early masterpiece ‘Spain’, albeit at a slower pace. A fascinating Part III from the prestigious Salle Pleyel in Paris where countless pianistic legends have plied their trade provides the pretext for some Gershwin-esque reflections on jazz with what sounds like a Jobim quote from ‘Àguas de Março’ which makes for a delightful blending of styles and the kind of piece that Brad Mehldau at his most creative would attempt.
Matters reach a stunning crescendo towards the end of Part IX, but the sensitivity displayed throughout returns for a gentle finish. A listening delight and the ideal finale to proceedings.