Keith Jarrett ‘A Multitude of Angels’ 4CD (ECM) 4/5

One can but marvel at the plethora of high-quality material that ECM is able to conjure up from its seemingly endless archive of Keith Jarrett music, but this sumptuous offering from a series of live recordings from concerts in Italy in October 1996 must surely count among its very best to date and represents the pianist at the height of his creative powers. Even more significantly, however, we actually hear Jarrett here when his physical powers were still at their full potential and not at all diminished by the debilitating illness that would later plague him and in fact force him into premature retirement from which he has only in recent years returned.
The lengthy pieces divide up into contrasting moods and the most lyrical and accessible of the evenings is the Modena concert. Part one is the ideal way in which to hear the quiet reflective side to Jarrett’s playing and, of all the recordings here, is by far the most enjoyable to these writer’s ears, and with call and response passages is equally the most soulful. The CD ends with a memorable rendition of the standard, ‘Danny Boy’, and this is a tailor-made vehicle for the pianist. In outlook, this concert is not without recalling the melodicism of the famous The Köln Concert.

For fans of the more abstract side to Jarrett’s craft, then the Genoa concert offers much to admire and the staccato rhythm in Part One is a marked contrast to elsewhere. However, even within the abstraction, there are nonetheless passage of great beauty and this is a hallmark of the concerts as a whole.

More methodically organised, the Turin concerts are in in-between of the two aforementioned evenings and, as elsewhere, when Jarrett is fully engaged, the trademark grunts make an appearance, though in truth they are never intrusive.

Inner sleeve notes by the musician are an indication of how important Jarrett himself views these concerts in his already impressive canon of work. To this writer, the concerts offer a journey into the creative mind of Keith Jarrett and for that reason alone are a priceless document. Although recorded on Jarrett’s personal DAT recorder, the sound is at once vibrant and clear, and the listener has the distinct impression of being directly in front of the artist who is giving a one-to-one intimate performance.

Tim Stenhouse