Friday, March 19, 2010
Keith JARRETT - The Köln Concert 1975
A musical chameleon, pianist Keith Jarrett was at his finest when he recorded these sustained solo improvisations in a German concert hall in 1975, the first lasting 26 minutes, the second 40. Melodies and rhythmic figures arise fluidly from his fingers as he moves from one idea to another, while his strong left hand is often used for repeated motifs that generate a rolling hypnotic power. This couples with strongly consonant harmonies to impart the flavor of gospel music at times, dance musics and Debussy at others. Above all, it's Jarrett's ability to knit all of his moods and wanderings into an almost seamless tapestry of warm and tuneful ideas that gives this music its enduring appeal.
By Stuart Broomer. AMG.
Generally I resist the urge to hurl superlatives at something; but for this particular disc, only words like "transcendent" and "sublime" will do. Twenty years on, it still floors me.
The third track ("IIb") alone is a gem that is worth the price of the disc. I've listened to it a hundred times, and I continue to be astonished by the journey it takes you through: a steady progression over moody, lyrical landscapes, spiralling up to a jagged peak, urged on by Jarrett's mesmerizing left-hand work and annotated at the crest by his own gasped vocalizations, as if he, too, were amazed at the scenery. Its the climax of the whole concert --there's nowhere to go but gently retrace our steps back down to the sweet coda of "IIc". Truly a masterpiece of improvisation.
The recording that, unfortunately, launched a thousand New Age noodlers seeking to capture its mood in simplified imitation; its no wonder that Jarrett has mixed feelings about it. And yes, as a long-time fan, I wouldn't even say its his best work. But it still speaks to me across the years like few other pieces of music I have ever known, in any category. I can't imagine ever tiring of it...and those who have heard it know what I mean.
And finally: if you like Jarrett's solo piano improvisations but haven't heard 'La Scala' yet, PLEASE do yourself a favor and click on over to get it asap. More technically brilliant than 'Koln' (as you would expect given the interval between the two performances), and the encore of "Over the Rainbow" is achingly beautiful. An absolute must-have.
01. Part I 26:01
02. Part IIa 14.54
03 Part IIb 18:14
04. Part IIc 6:56