Keith Jarrett has always chosen wisely. Early on, the pianist partnered with musicians who helped shape the transition of jazz from the classic cool sounds of the 1950s though the more aggressive fusion period of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the early 1970s, Jarrett began a high wire act of recording and releasing a number of daring solo piano projects including the revered and respected Koln Concert (ECM, 1975). Manfred Eicher and his elite team at ECM Records captured that live concert in which Jarrett offered the listener exuberant, elegant, creative music emanating from spontaneous improvisation. The music world took notice.
Health problems reduced Jarrett's abilities to present new material in the second half of the 2010s. Because of that, ECM Records reached into a musical treasure chest and retrieved jazz (and classical) archival music. Recorded in 2016, Budapest Concert arrived as 2020 was drawing to a close. Jarrett opens with articulate twists and turns on the first piece then soothes us with comforting pianistic whispers in the second selection. Whether the concert music is brisk and upbeat or haunting and subtle, there are times it seems that Jarrett's intimate explorations are for himself alone but, with Jarrett as a guide, the listener is invited into his inner circle.
The flow of the second disc begins with another reverential, intimate piece and then shifts to a boogie-styled wake-up call. The next piece, simply titled "Part VII," is one of the concert highlights. It is a gloriously majestic presentation that blossoms with underlying drama and radiates beauty. Towards the end of the evening, Jarrett christens "Part XII" with an extra descriptive word -'blues'thus escorting the audience back about a hundred years to the fountainhead of so much heartfelt music. The concert concludes with an inviting interpretation of the classic, "Answer Me, My Love," a Jarrett favorite that he has performed a number of times.
As an interesting aside, a cursory glance at the album cover may initially seem like looking at a black and white view of the river and the city. After a closer look, an understated yet vibrant wash of colors slowly reveals itself. So too with the music.
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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