Keith Jarrett's numerous volumes of improvised solo piano recordings are all treasure troves of spontaneous music making. Documented since the 1970s, they reveal the opening of his music as it readily embraces classical and sacred music influences, filters out what is unnecessary in his technique, and encounters the depth and breadth of the jazz tradition and his own unique abilities as a composer. The four discs in A Multitude of Angels were recorded in as many Italian cities during the last week of October 1996 – some 20 months after the concert captured on La Scala.
The new rules Keith Jarrett has made for himself in solo performance are firmly in play on the two-disc Carnegie Hall Concert, recorded in the Isaac Stern Auditorium in September of 2005. Those who found his earlier solo recordings – from Vienna and Köln to La Scala – to be compelling might be a bit disconcerted at first, because of the completely different approach Jarrett has taken to improvising. His concert is divided into shorter segments, or parts, and often changes direction numerous times in the course of a single piece. Indeed, the impression is given almost of composed songs where harmony, melody, and rhythm are pulled to the breaking point and reassembled along new lines.
Keith Jarrett returned to performing and recording solo concerts in 1995 with La Scala (released in 1997) after recovering from an illness. That fine recording followed his manner of working that he had begun on Köln Concert in 1975: That is, completely improvised concerts from beginning to end that had melodic and "motivic" centers. The double-disc set that is Radiance, recorded in Japan in 2002, is a new fork in the road. The work has no conceptual center. Jarrett says he wanted to let some of the music "happen" to him while he sat at the piano, deep in thought. He states: "I wanted my hands (particularly the left hand) to tell me things." And happen it does. Each piece, after the first one, comes out of the work that immediately precedes it.
ECM celebrates the occasion of pianist Keith Jarrett's 70th birthday with two simultaneous releases. One is a classical date for its New Series on which he performs piano concertos by Béla Bartók and Samuel Barber with two different orchestras. The other is Creation, a solo piano offering. While Jarrett has made dozens of solo records, this is unlike any in his catalog. Rather than document the unfolding of his in-the-moment ideas through a single performance, this set features nine sections compiled from half-a-dozen performances in four cities and five venues (all notated in the sleeve) during 2014.
Wanda Landowska brought the Goldbergs out of hiding on the harpsichord in the '40s and Glenn Gould made them a bonafide hit on the piano in the '50s, opening the floodgates for keyboardists of all stripes. So, in one of his earlier recorded voyages into the classical world, Keith Jarrett is up against an imposing legacy as he tackles what has become the most famous set of variations in Western music. First, he chooses to play them on a double-manual harpsichord – which makes the task somewhat easier, avoiding the finger-tangling cross hand difficulties that can trip up a piano performance.
Jarrett's wide range of influences is threaded throughout–strains of classical, jazz, pop, and world music are identifiable here and there. As with all his improvised work, there is a great feeling of exhilaration for the listener in discovering–along with his concert audience–where Jarrett will go next. In fact, RADIANCE feels even more open-ended than previous efforts in that it relies less on recurring themes and more on small bits of musical connective tissue, which lead the playing in ever-shifting directions. Yet Jarrett's skill and innate sense of balance and pacing are such that the music rarely feels disjointed, making RADIANCE a rich, thoroughly engaging listening.