8

Keith Jarrett: Hymns/Spheres

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Keith Jarrett: Hymns/Spheres In a career well into its fifth decade, while continuing to make fine music in the new millennium, looking back at Keith Jarrett's discography reveals that the 1970s was a particularly important—and busy—time for the influential pianist. In that single decade, Jarrett released epochal solo piano explorations like The Köln Concert (ECM, 1975); orchestral works including Arbour Zena (ECM, 1975); and led not one but two now-legendary groups—the American quartet responsible for The Survivor's Suite (ECM, 1976) and the European group first heard on Belonging (ECM, 1974), but whose archival Sleeper (ECM) was a 2012 highlight. Amidst even all that activity, however, Hymns/Spheres stands out, as a unique recording and one with something of a history.

Originally a two-LP set, this 93-minute suite was whittled down to a very spare 40 minutes when, with the advent of compact discs, ECM began reissuing back catalog. Other titles were cut down, like guitarist Pat Metheny's 80/81 (1980), with two tracks excluded in order to allow the original double album to fit on a single disc (since rectified). But it seems clear that the decision to release Hymns/Spheres as simply Spheres (1985)—omitting the bookending "Hymn of Remembrance" and "Hymn of Release" and issuing just the first, fourth, seventh and ninth movements of Jarrett's nine-part "Spheres" suite—it was an artistic decision as well, with the objective of creating a single disc that stood on its own merits, rather than as something truncated for purely practical reasons.

Now fully restored, however, Hymns/Spheres, reveals itself to be a near-perfect recording—a continuation of Jarrett's solo piano explorations but, performed instead on Ottobeuren, Germany's Karl Joseph Riepp Organ, one with significantly greater sonic potential. Still, as profound as it was, Hymns/Spheres clearly didn't have the selling power of a Köln or a Belonging, and with considerably higher manufacturing costs in the 1980s (and correspondingly higher selling prices), the decision to issue a two-CD set would have been inherently risky.

Not that ECM has been averse to risk-taking in its 44-year history, but 37 years later, it's far more feasible to release Hymns/Spheres in its entirety. Beyond cost, in the ensuing decades it has gained its more rightful place as more than just a unique recording in Jarrett's discography, but an important one as well. Jarrett's solo improvisations have always possessed an inherent spirituality but, performed on baroque organ, rarely has it been so far to the fore. The two hymns are particularly majestic, and if Jarrett's reputation as a fearless improvisational explorer was already established by 1976, the many stops available on this baroque organ allowed him to experiment with sound as well, making Hymns/Spheres as wondrous sonically as it is a high point in the ongoing evolution of Jarrett's extemporaneous acumen.

The reissue is also a first for ECM: a mini-LP gatefold that, with the CDs in wax paper sleeves, replicates the original as closely as possible. Hymns/Spheres can finally be heard in its full (and remastered) glory, taking its rightful place as one of Jarrett's most significant recordings in its demonstration that, for this intrepid improviser, nothing is forbidden...and everything is possible.


Track Listing: CD1: Hymns of Remembrance; Spheres (1st Movement); Spheres (2nd Movement); Spheres (3rd Movement); Spheres (4th Movement). CD2: Spheres (5th Movement); Spheres (6th Movement); Spheres (7th Movement); Spheres (8th Movement); Spheres (9th Movement); Hymn of Release.

Personnel: Keith Jarrett: organ.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Americana" CD/LP/Track Review Americana
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: July 25, 2016
Read "TriAngular Bent" CD/LP/Track Review TriAngular Bent
by Dave Wayne
Published: September 22, 2016
Read "You'll See" CD/LP/Track Review You'll See
by Chris Mosey
Published: June 27, 2016
Read "Very Early" CD/LP/Track Review Very Early
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 23, 2016
Read "Sea Changes" CD/LP/Track Review Sea Changes
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: February 29, 2016
Read "City Colors" CD/LP/Track Review City Colors
by Tyran Grillo
Published: April 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!