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Three minutes and 22 seconds into "Part 3" of The Carnegie Hall Concert, pianist Keith Jarrett uses one of his trademark vocalizations as a second instrument, elevating the stately piece into a gorgeous anthem that grabs the attention and lifts the spirit. Then, a few seconds later, he stops. It's hard to decide which moment is more arresting.
Jarrett is justifiably famous for his solo piano playing. The Köln Concert (ECM, 1975) was the Frampton Comes Alive! of piano jazz albums in the '70sas close to arena rock popularity and ubiquity as 66 minutes of solo piano is ever likely to get. One thing about those 66 minutes, though, is that they were divided into four parts. The new Jarrett-as-soloist is more inclined to stop playing every once in a while.
It's not that the Köln-era improvs were too long, it's just that it's refreshing to hear a master improviser like Jarrett work with shorter forms. "Part 2," for example, finds Jarrett winding his vaguely Middle Eastern melodic line over a dense and solid left-hand groove. This exciting work lasts all of three and a half minuteslong enough to get a taste and to be left wanting more.
The two-disc set is not uniformly inspiring. "Part 1" never seems to go anywhere, and while that's not always necessary, this piece would have benefited from some development along the way. But for the few moments that may fall short, there are many more examples of a level of musical understanding attained by very few players.
Jarrett is moving so quickly in "Part 6" that it's a wonder he can keep pace with himself. Yet the piece hangs together, in part because of his smart use of space during the stacked series of runs up and down the keyboard. The shift in tempo and style at 3:40 feels like emerging into a glittering cavern after running down a narrow tunnel.
"Part 7," though, is where the Jarrett of the Gospel returns from the 1970s. The Jarrett who preaches. The Jarrett who implores and inspires. This is not the Jarrett you'll see interviewed, or the man you'll read about in the magazines. This is the secret prophet locked away behind the controlled exterior. This Jarrett sings, and when he sings, he parts the clouds and makes you realize that the piano can be all things at any moment. This Jarrett will make you clap your hands. He'll make you smile. He'll make everything okay, and you'll want to surround yourself in this music forever.
And in the end, that's really what a master musician like Keith Jarrett is all about. He helps us transcend the everyday, the mundane, the unflinching realities of the world. He helps us aspire to be more. And for that, we should all be grateful.
Track Listing: Part 1-10; The Good America; Paint My Heart Red; My Song; True Blues; Time On My Hands.