Sunday Night Jazz Showcase
Program #277 (January 5 at 8:00 p.m.)
Pianist, composer, and bandleader Keith Jarrett is one of the most prolific, innovative, and iconoclastic musicians to emerge from the late 20th century.
As a pianist (though that is by no means the only instrument he plays), he literally changed the conversation in jazz by introducing an entirely new aesthetic regarding solo improvisation in concert.
Though capable of playing in a wide variety of styles from classical to folk musics, Jarrett is deeply grounded in the jazz tradition. He has recorded over 80 albums as a leader in jazz and classical music. And he has won the Down Beat Critics Poll as a pianist numerous times, including consecutively between 2001 and 2008. His 1975 solo piano album The Köln Concert is the best-selling solo album in jazz history, and the all-time best-selling piano album.
Jarrett was born May 8, 1945 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. At the age of three he began playing piano. He undertook the study of classical music at age eight, and at 15 he studied formal composition before moving to Boston to study briefly at the Berklee College of Music. Still in his teens, Jarrett intended to further his academic work in Paris before deciding to move to New York in 1964 and become a jazz musician.
Jarrett played organ and electric piano with Miles Davis between 1970 and 1971, which resulted in Live at the Fillmore and Live/Evil. His work with Davis would also surface on the trumpeter's 1974 album, Get Up with It, and was beautifully documented on the box set Miles Davis: The Cellar Door Session 1970, which was issued in 2005.
Jarrett also appeared on other artists' albums during this period, including Airto's Free, psychedelic pop duo Barbara & Ernie's Prelude To..., and soul singer Donal Leace's self-titled offering from 1972. Jarrett and Gary Burton issued their self-titled recording on Atlantic in 1971, the same year his trio released The Mourning of a Star.
The pianist briefly signed to Columbia, releasing one enduring album for the label, Expectations, in 1972 -- an album that featured his trio with guitarist Sam Brown and drummer/percussionist Airto. The year also proved fruitful for two other reasons. The first was Facing You, Jarrett's first solo piano recording for Manfred Eicher's young ECM label, an association that would become symbiotic by the end of the decade.
Redman joined Jarrett's group in late 1971, and the first offering by the larger band was Birth, issued by Atlantic in 1972. The band also recorded for Impulse! during this time, issuing the highly regarded Fort Yawuh (1973), Treasure Island (1974), Death and the Flower and Backhand (1975), Mysteries (1976), ByaBlue (1977), and Bop-Be (1978). El Juicio (The Judgement) also appeared on Atlantic in 1975.
Jarrett's horizons were broadening considerably in the early '70s, and his association with ECM was deepening. While 1972 saw the release of Ruta and Daitya, a duet album with Jack DeJohnette, 1973 offered evidence of what would become iconic in the decades to come: the improvised Solo Concerts: Bremen & Lausanne.
In 1975, Jarrett's double-live solo piano album The Köln Concert was released; its warmth, accessibility, and immense and enduring popularity have made it the best-selling solo piano recording in jazz history. His other solo piano works for ECM include Staircase, the ten-album Sun Bear Concerts, Moth and the Flame, Concerts, Paris Concert, Dark Intervals, Vienna Concert, La Scala, Carnegie Hall Concert, and Rio.
Jarrett began recording with a European group in the '70s, the second of his three groups that would become legendary. His European quartet included saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Palle Danielsson, and drummer Jon Christensen; their debut, Belonging, appeared in 1974. Simultaneously, Jarrett remained busy with his American quartet and with recording experimentation.
In the Light, which was released in 1974, was a double album that showcased his interest in composing modern classical music. His compositions were wide-ranging; among them were a string quartet, a brass quintet, and "Crystal Moment (Piece for Four Celli and Two Trombones)."
He also recorded a pair of albums co-led with Garbarek, Luminescence (1975), where the pair was aided by an orchestral string section, and the popular Arbour Zena, which included Haden on bass as well as chamber strings. In 1976, the provocative Hymns/Spheres, a double album of improvisations played on an enormous 18th century organ in the Benedictine Abbey Ottobeuren, appeared on ECM.
The pianist's European quartet issued My Song in 1978, an album that brought more conservative jazz fans back to Jarrett's table, especially as it was surrounded by the releases of Bop-Be and The Survivor's Suite, the first of two releases by his American quartet to appear on ECM. That band's final album together, the live double album Eyes of the Heart, was released in 1979.
(provided by Allmusic)