Keith Jarrett, Go Home
The YouTube footage comes thanks to the website of my friend and fellow jazz critic, Howard Mandel, who further reports that Carlo Pagnotta, the festival’s artistic director, issued a statement afterward that the city of Perugia, host of the festival “won’t have anything more to do with” Jarrett. “We will do without his music.”
There was a time when jazz musicians were America’s coolest ambassadors. The State Department sent Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie and dozens more on worldwide tours, and it was the best thing they could have done. When I was a Moscow correspondent, I met many Russians whose first exposure to America was Willis Conover’s jazz program on Voice of America. Jazz represented America the free and boisterous. Keith Jarrett represents America the arrogant and uncouth.
Howard reports that Jarrett’s manager responded in a letter, printed in Italian newspapers, that the Perugians shouldn’t take KJ’s remarks so personally. “He could just as easily have said this in New York or Paris,” the manager said (presumably straight-faced). Indeed, he has said things very much like this in many of the world’s great concert halls. He’s a world- class asshole. When he acts this way at Carnegie Hall, he’s merely a buffoon. When he acts this way across the waters, he’s a disgrace to the traditions of jazz and another black mark on the United States.