field report no.020916

POSITION: Carnegie Hall NY.NY
SUBJECT: Keith Jarrett

I think it was Bowie's passing in January that had me talking to a friend about bucket-list concerts I've left to see (I never did see David, sadly). One that quickly came to mind was Keith Jarrett. Not wanting the moment to pass, I checked his tour schedule only to find he was, in fact, going to do one of his (now legendary) solo piano performances—at Carnegie Hall in less than a month. To my ecstatic surprise, I was still able to acquire decent seats.

I'm personally attached to Jarrett's solo piano albums (especially The Sun Bear Concerts). They are, far and away my favorite things in his catalog. Given the quality, diversity and depth of Jarrett's oeuvre, that's no meager statement. For a number of years now, he's shifted his methodology for these shows, to try and keep it fresh. They're still entirely improvised—and astonishingly arranged instant compositions—but instead of pursuing one, long evolving piece, he now let's ideas finish and starts anew as each piece demands.

Entirely improvised should not be mistaken for free improvisation. He may walk onto the stage without notes written or planned, but Jarrett unabashedly taps into any number of styles and idioms to guide his meanderings through logical developments. It means some of the pieces lean more towards one genre or another. It approaches transcendent when Jarrett is able to press all styles into service, reaching for something that is not blues or jazz, pop or new age, classical or minimalist—but is not not all those things either. It shows a glimpse of something, perhaps new or perhaps so eternal it's been there all along.

NOTES: Keith Jarrett, solo piano improvisations