Rock Around The World October 1977


plays abstract musical landscapes

by Jerry Zaslow

Keith Jarrett is an artist who creates his rare music for all that is art. One listen to any of his musical landscapes will convince you he certainly isn’t commercially motivated. Jarrett’s music is conspicuously unique. Although Jarrett sets his own pace, he has been well received by those of us who have been immersed in his waves of sound.

1973 was a major year in Jarrett’s career. He released his award winning box set “Solo Concerts” on the German Jazz label ECM. Many artists create pure award winning music in their lives, but so few ever receive this type of recognition and general success.

Prior to ’73 Jarrett’s career was less atypical of that-of a struggling Jazz artist. This is not to say these years were less awesome aesthetically.

Jarrett came from Allentown, Pennsylvania where he received a Downbeat scholarship to Boston’s Berklee School of Music. He graduated Berklee and went to New York to play music—but instead, he got to starve first! After a while Jarrett got to sit in after hours at the Village Vanguard and was spotted by Mr. thunder, rattle and swing himself, Art Blakey. Shortly thereafter, Jarrett tied down the piano stool in Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Later, in 1965, Jarrett played with Roland Kirk, which led him to his most notorious early years’ aggregation

The Charles Lloyd Quarter—circa ’66. Jarrett spent several years with Lloyd in which they visited Europe many times, including an unprecedented tour of the Soviet Union.

By this point in young Jarrett’s career his compositions were developing in many directions. This predicated other projects between dates with the Lloyd group. He formed a trio during this period which included Charlie Haden on bass and Paul Motian on drums. This unit was a precursor of his present quartet. He toured Europe with that group in 1969.

During the next few years Miles Davis, enlisted Jarrett’s services, in which he helped perform some experimental Daviseque compositions on accoustic piano beside another keyboardist on electric piano named Chick Corea.

Jarrett’s trio, although in a somewhat latent state at this time, kept it together and eventually did Europe in 1972. Shortly thereafter, saxophonist Dewey Redman came to the trio to create Jarrett’s present quartet. They record for ABC and Impulse records.

The Jazz in Jarrett’s music is most aptly displayed with this quartet. Between Haden’s formidable bass lines, Redman’s wild reed work and Motian’s transcendental rhythms, the audience is able to experience their musical rapport which communicates the state of their art.

Jarrett’s fans must be partially bemuddled. Record stores categorize the man as a Jazz act and his quartet bears this out—but check out his albums entitled “Hymns and Spheres” and “In the Light” and one easily identifies the work of a contemporary classical composer!

The above mentioned “Solo Concerts” discs are comprised of two entire European concert dates, in which all the music is spontaneous. This is the real stuff in improvisation, the there and then of the thing. For the artist there’s no hiding.

Keith Jarrett is truly a legend in his own time, even if he isn’t a household word across America. Only time can judge the impact and magnitude of genuine art. Jarrett’s genuiness is displayed in other areas of music besides the piano and composition. We find a much more diverse Jarrett on his long since out of print Vortex release “Restoration Ruin.” An early, but strong disc that included vocals and instrumentation for eleven instruments —in which Jarrett plays all the parts! He has produced a host of collaborations with assorted Europeans via several ECM releases, all of which are “out there.”

The ECM discs have been brought about by the label’s owner and executive producer, Manfred Eicher. Eicher is a rich man concerned with recording and

documenting the artist’s statement, and not necessarily making huge sums of money. Jarrett has delivered both. The ECM discs alone have displayed Jarrett in a multitude of experimental forms—the classical Jarrett, the free Jarrett, and the most impressive: solo Jarrett.

Once you know “his Jazz” there is no mistaking it. The music appeals to many of our subconscious senses and excites the listener in a somewhat subliminal way. This requires one’s undivided attention. Hence Jarrett requires absolute silence from his audience. This type of artistic demand has been the source of the only negative criticism his followers have fathomed up. This of course, is expected by any public figure.

Jarrett’s track record is an interesting one. Artistically he has quite a bit under his 32-year-old belt. In 1974 he was nominated for a Grammy, won Record of the Year in Time magazine, Stereo Review, Downbeat and its Japanese counterpart Swing Journal for his “Solo Concert” set. His awards in 1975 and 1976 have been as astounding as well. Needless to say, he is an inspiration to his peers as well as his audience, for they have bequeathed him these honors. As Ralph Towner once stated in a Downbeat interview, “We’ll spend a lifetime listening to Keith Jarrett.”