Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
399

Keith Jarrett: Tokyo Solo

Victor Verney By

Sign in to view read count Views
Keith Jarrett
Tokyo Solo
ECM
2006



It's easy to ridicule Keith Jarrett, who gives his detractors no shortage of ammunition. Notorious for his physical gyrations, orgasmic moans and facial contortions, Jarrett will also abruptly stop a performance should anyone cough. He routinely provides cough drops for the audience and even organises "group coughs," to prevent his creativity being disrupted.

Many people find it hard to get beyond Jarrett's over-the-top tics and affectations, which they see as rising (or perhaps falling) to the level of a prima donna's comic burlesque. Miles Davis—who could be pretty temperamental himself—once asked, with acid tongue firmly in cheek, "So, Keith ... how does it feel to be a genius?"

That said, there's no denying the immensity of Jarrett's talent, some of which this video reveals. It consists of previously unreleased material from a 2002 concert, Jarrett's 150th performance in Japan, where he has found a home away from home. This is no mystery, given both the Japanese's musical sensibilities, which seem more receptive to Jarrett's atonal wanderings, and their keener sense of quiet respect compared to American audiences. (That the Japanese have a cultural affinity with ritual performance may also be a factor). Speaking of his Japanese fans, Jarrett, not best known for praising his audiences, once said "It's an honor to feel [their] respect for my work...."

More than most solo piano concerts, a Jarrett performance is a visual experience. Tokyo Solo may be something of a shock for anyone who hasn't seen Jarrett in a while. He was born in 1945, and he looks every year of his age, his formerly luxuriant hair now close-cropped and grey. The camera reveals what even the audience can't see: Jarrett's hands are the gnarled, loose-skinned hands of an ageing man.

The camera also shows what can't be heard on a recording: the notes not played. At the end of "Part 2d," a gorgeously melodic ballad composed on the spot, Jarrett hits a closing chord in the lower register, positions his hands to repeat it two octaves higher (a standard pianistic device) but then pulls them away, as if to say "No, that's fine right there." A Jarrett concert—for better or worse—is always fresh-minted.

The most pleasant surprise is when Jarrett, called out for three encores after over an hour of his trademark improvisations, responds with three standards. "Danny Boy" is rendered with such exquisite tenderness that it will likely bring tears to the eyes of some listeners. "Don't Worry 'Bout Me," which closes, is perhaps Jarrett's reassurance to his Japanese fans that his lengthy and debilitating bout with chronic fatigue syndrome is now behind him.

Director Kanama Kawachi deserves honorable mention for his camerawork. Kawachi's quietly original shots enhance the video, but avoid any distractingly self-conscious efforts at artiness. Prime examples are the several shots of Jarrett's feet, which show his use of the footpedals, including the rarely used middle, often two at once.


Tracks: Part 1a; Part 1b; Part 1c; Part 2a; Part 2b; Part 2c; Part 2d; Part 2e; Danny Boy; Old Man River; Don't Worry 'Bout Me.

Personnel: Keith Jarrett: piano.

Production Notes: 110 minutes. Recorded October 30, 2002 at Metropolitan Festival Hall, Tokyo, Japan.


Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Genius Guide to Jazz
Extended Analysis
Read more articles
Creation
Creation
ECM Records
2015
buy
Hamburg '72
Hamburg '72
ECM Records
2014
buy
Last Dance
Last Dance
ECM Records
2014
buy
Ritual
Ritual
ECM Records
2014
buy
Keith Jarrett: Arbour Zena
Keith Jarrett: Arbour...
ECM Records
2014
buy
[no cover]
Concerts (Bregenz...
RCA
2013
buy
Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
guitar
Chick Corea Chick Corea
piano
Brad Mehldau Brad Mehldau
piano
Charlie Haden Charlie Haden
bass, acoustic
McCoy Tyner McCoy Tyner
piano
Bobby McFerrin Bobby McFerrin
vocalist
Jan Garbarek Jan Garbarek
sax, tenor

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.