Keith Jarrett really has created a whole new genre of music with his solo piano improvisations. The now legendary Köln Concert
(ECM, 1975) is considered to be the mother of all solo instrumental albums, and with good reason. Despite hundreds of similar recordings in recent years, too many wanna-be imitators remain just cheap imitations. Even after his absence from extensive touring and recording in recent years due to his illness, Jarrett remains the real thing.
The concert at Carnegie Hall, America's most celebrated venue, marked Jarrett's first solo piano concert in a decade in the US. As ever he never fails to amaze as he manages to create music of unparalleled beauty. With all of his solo recordings, organ works, composed scores, performances of works by composers including Bach, Mozart, Lou Harrison, Shostakovich and countless others it is patently obvious that he is more than just a jazz musician. Just as his output on ECM demonstrates the wide variety of musical genres that he easily straddles, his solo piano improvisations also seem to grasp that same vast area of interest. The Carnegie Hall Concert
consists of ten improvisations spanning two CDs. Jarrett's spare but expressive style creates spontaneously improvised pieces that sound like they have been carefully composed before. The improvised pieces created here are different from earlier efforts as they are much shorter than the long-form work found on albums including Köln Concert
(ECM, 1974). This approach began to take shape on Radiance
(ECM, 2005) and the DVD Live in Tokyo
Jarrett takes a very warm and diverse approach and it unfurls many surprises. In keeping most of the pieces relatively brief he creates a unique combination of rigor and poetry, and his touch on the Steinway adds a layer of wonder to all that he plays.
Following the ten improvised pieces Jarrett plays five passionate encores. For the madly enthusiastic audience that provided the thunderous applause he performs three new compositions"The Good America," "Paint My Heart Red" and "True Blues a reworked version of "My Song" and the closing standard, "Time On My Hands."
The winning performance at Carnegie Hall clearly presents Jarrett's many qualities and strengths.
Personnel: Keith Jarrett, piano.