Burdened as it is by the news that, due to two strokes suffered in 2018, Keith Jarrett's glorious art of live composition is all but over, Budapest Concert has some serious heavy lifting to do. Triumphant and transcendent, it rises to the grand occasion and leaves the listener marveling at how any artist, of any age, of any discipline, can still capture the moment and the imagination so singularly as Jarrett does sixty years down the line.
Recorded at the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall during his last tour in 2016, the double disc Budapest Concert finds Jarrett in full form two weeks earlier than the still remarkable Munich Concert (ECM, 2019). Part punk and part Prokofiev, "Part I" is a frenzied opening salvo, a stop-start fusillade tumble of time, tempo, and suggested theory which would exhaust most younger players and leaves the listener playing catch-up. It is the longest piece of the evening raging just under fifteen minutes and tears the veil off without hesitancy. But though each piece has its own quixotic flash of inspiration, the rest of the first half of the concert, "Part II," "Part III," and "Part IV" respectively, posits Jarrett in an extremely pensive if not unsettled state of mind. As if he has yet to find what he is looking for or in doubt that maybe, on this particular night, in front of this particular audience, he won't find it.
"Part V," an all engaging lyrical lullaby, opens the second half with the instant sense that Jarrett has found his way and indeed he has. "Part VI" is a loquacious roadhouse rout, one of those pure Jarrett moments, as are the subsequent, meditative rhapsodies "Part VII" and "Part VIII." Coming from the quiet as we were "Part IX" is a brief flash pot. "Part X," a left hand dominant exercise, may be a brief stumble from the preceding heights, but it only serves to amplify the magnetism grace of "Part XI" and the bouncing and fanciful "Part XII," one of those blues revelries every audience since The Koln Concert (ECM, 1975) waits for with baited breath. As has become traditional in his late years, Jarrett closes with two extremely wistful renderings of "It's A Lonesome Old Town" and "Answer Me," making the Budapest Concert a one night stand of long lasting beauty.
Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII; Part VIII; Part IX; Part X; Part XI; Part XII Blues;
It's A Lonesome Old Town; Answer Me.
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