Keith Jarrett ‘No End’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5

Keith Jarrett_no_endHere is something of a curiosity. How would Keith Jarrett sound if he were placed in a studio with guitars, drums and percussion plus piano and required to come up with improvisations of pieces? This is what has resulted from apparent musical musings in the studio from 1986 that were never intended for release and what is interesting is that there were no preconceived ideas about the pieces. While it has taken over twenty-five years for the recordings to the surface, surprisingly, perhaps, they do not sound in the least bit dated with none of the electric keyboards that characterised much of the 1980s, and they could easily have been recorded in the last decade. There is a definite nod towards world roots music with the guitar playing inspired by both African and Eastern sounds and it is extremely melodic in parts. The compositions are simply numbered I to XX and vary in length between two and a half and seven and a half minutes. Part V had a quasi-Mexican feel in its use of rhythm guitar and shuffling percussion and is a definite highlight. Part III, by contrast, has more a blues atmosphere with funk-tinged bass. African flavours sometimes come to the surface as on part IV with Nigerian juju rhythms seemingly influential here. For more reflective sounds, part VIII reveals a passion for Indian classical music with a delicate and restrained guitar solo with tabla in the background. It seems likely that John McLaughlin and his Indo-jazz fusion musings have served as an inspiration here. Only the drumming (though not the various percussion instruments), which has a tendency to be a tad one dimensional in parts, if perfectly in time, is a disappointment. For fans of Jarrett’s piano work, this may represent an unusual item in the pantheon and one they might initially balk at, yet it also reveals a good deal about the individual behind the music and what truly inspires him in his own listening pleasures, and in that respect alone it is a priceless document.

Tim Stenhouse