In October 2020 Keith Jarrett told the New York Times, "I don't know what my future is supposed to be." In that interview, he revealed what had been rumored for some time. A 2018 strokeone of two that he had sufferedhad left him unable to walk and, without the use of his left hand, perhaps permanently. The ubiquitous music of Keith Jarrett has transcended much of what we think about genres, styles, and most of all, improvisation. Whether one prefers his Shostakovich, Standards Trio or his one-of-a-kind live solo improvisations, Jarrett is the gold standard for modern pianists. The archival ECM release, Budapest Concert was recorded in 2016, days before the previous ECM release Munich 2016 (2019).
The double-disc collection was recorded at the Bela Bartok Concert Hall and infuses the disparate characteristics that help make Jarrett's improvised creations unique. There are touches of gospel, classical and country, accompanying Jarrett's deep reservoir of jazz stylings. "Part I" opens the set as a lengthy athematic ramble but he limits the most jagged edges to "Part IX" "Part X." "Part VI" has an jumpy boogie-woogie rhythm, "Part VII" is nuevo-spiritual, and "Part XII -Blues" is the kind of rollicking blues that helped make Jarrett famous. But Jarrett's rhapsodic paeans such as "Part V" and "Part VIII" make for superb listening.
Though the concert was recorded two years before Jarrett's first stroke, there is a pervading melancholy across much of Budapest Concert that now feels prescient. It is not among the best of Jarrett's live solo recordings, but there are more than enough standout gems to make it a worthy addition to his catalog. More of these concert tapes will likely materialize over time, but as Jarrett told the Times, "I don't feel right now like I'm a pianist. That's all I can say about that." For the rest of us, there will always be more to say about Keith Jarrett.
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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