Keith Jarrett's Awesome Night at Carnegie Hall

I went to see Keith Jarrett play solo at Carnegie Hall last night. This may puzzle careful readers of this blog, who no doubt recall my boycott of Jarrett in August 2007 after his disgraceful behavior at the Umbria Jazz Festival, on top of a career of disgraceful behavior. Well, I decided to call an end my own pique. First, I’m told that Jarrett apologized to the people of Umbria. Second, now that Barack Obama is president, the tantrums of a piano player are more likely to be seen as a mere random annoyance than “yet another example” of American brutishness. Finally, I figured, it’s a new era, I’ll give the guy another chance. He’s too good an artist—too great, really—to ignore just because he’s a jerk. (Jackson Pollock was much more unpleasant, yet that doesn’t stop me from gazing at Number One (1950) every time I visit the Museum of Modern Art.)

So, as I was saying, I went to see Jarrett at Carnegie Hall last night, and it was one of the most astonishing piano jazz concerts I’ve seen in a long time—two 45-minute sets of improvisation, followed by six encores’ worth of ballads and rags, all of it riveting, quite a bit of it jaw-dropping. He moved seamlessly, effortlessly, from atonal flurries to funky blues to stirring balladry, all the while exploring hidden passageways of harmony, sifting subtle shades and dazzling colors, never succumbing to predictable patterns but never indulging in the bizarre for its own sake either.

And he was even gracious to the audience, for the most part. Has KJ embarked on a new era, too?

The concert was recorded (a pair of microphones leaning into the piano, a pair of omnis at the front of the stage for ambience) and a two-CD set will probably be released soon on ECM, as was his last solo date at Carnegie in 2005. When it comes out, buy it.

Max's picture

Glad to read that you lifted your boycott and enjoyed KJ's recent performance at Carnegie Hall. He really is a master.Hope this won't change your mind about the boycott, but he really tore into the audience at the beginning of a Trio gig at the Montreal Jazz Fest last July. He was set off by some in the audience who snapped pics with their cellphones, etc., at the beginning of the show. Some pretty colourful language was employed and evidently dissuaded any further photography. ;-)

Don Mann's picture

The comparison with Jackson Pollock is hardly suitable!Jackson's posters (they are certainly not works of art!) look like someone at the paint store forgot to seal the lid on a tin before putting it the mixing machine. Never has so little talent received so much publicity!Whether you like Jarrett's personality or works, or not; there is no doubt he is a great talent . . . . . Pollock is a self-absorbed, self indulgent fraud!

selfdivider's picture

FK, I have a blog post request for you: the genealogy of the nasally-wheezily-groaning pianists. Obviously Jarrett, but noticed that Esbjorn Svensson has the exact same kind of groan-song happenin'. They make Glenn Gould sound like Jussi Bjoerling, man. In fact, I was listening to Monk/Coltrane Carnegie Hall album and noticed that Monk also had that goin' on. What gives? Family tree time.

Jerry's picture

Hey Kaplan,What the hell does Obama have to do with Jarrett's audience's reaction to his rudeness?? Creative as your explanation may seem, can you PLEASE try to resist the temptation to insert The Messiah as the solution to ALL of our problems?

Fred Kaplan's picture

What I said was this (and a bit facetiously, in case you couldn't tell): With Bush out of office, there's less need to worry that the rest of the world will view the cretinous behavior of an American as a fair sample of all Americans. A majority of our voters, after all, voted for Obama; we couldn't all be like this. I don't see Obama as the solution of all problems. But Bush certainly exacerbated the problems we had. And by the way, you could be a little less rude, too. Or is that just the style of modern-day Republicans?

Steve Dollar's picture

The only people I ever hear calling Obama "Messiah" are peevish right-wingers. Its tiresome. I voted for the guy because I thought he could do the best job of salvaging the disaster this country has become. Not for ideology or divine annointment. But that's beside the point. Fred, I'm glad you enjoyed the show, but I have written off Jarrett myself. I think he is a colossal bore. Perhaps the most overrated jazz musician alive. Definitely not my Messiah. That said, his trio was the occasion for my first professional jazz review (Rochester T-U, circa 1986) and I had no idea what I was talking about but the performance was magical. So I do owe KJ that. But I saw Cecil Taylor (solo) the same week and got REALLY blown away. I don't think either pianist has ever impressed me more than those first times.

Jerry's picture

No offense intended Fred, I was being a little tongue-in-cheek with my post. It does however get annoying when obama is brought up HERE. I have to deal with his abject adoration in the media and elsewhere on a daily basis--with no empirical justification. Before the election, he did nothing on his own to warrant the blind adoration. I also think its a stretch to think that we will be looked at differently by other countries JUST BECAUSE he is now the president. It just seems like another reason to bash Bush. (witness the previous poster, calling anyone that doesn't like Obama peevish RIGHT-WINGERS. I guess then he's a peevish LEFT winger. Wow.)

Steve Dollar's picture

Not to take this off-topic, but Jerry you misread me. I said the only people I personally have heard using the phrase "Messiah" were PRWs. Anyone is free to dislike Obama regardless of affiliation, and the media is the media. They used to adore W, too.Jarrett's "approval rating" is probably lower these days because he has cultivated such a negative image in the media that it makes it harder to actually hear his music and judge him solely on its merits. I was so put off after I interviewed him a few years ago that I vowed never to write about him again. Part of the reason is that I felt too prejudiced in my opinion of him to be able to objectively review or profile him again. But as Fred's observations show, it's worthwhile to set such things aside and listen with a fresh attitude.

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kukaracha's picture

Dear Jazz Lovers,Remeber the name - Beka Gochiashvili. I saw the kid at Jim Caruso's Casting Party at Birdland in New York, and what can I say....I am still speechless. The kid is 13 years old, he comes from the country of Georgia, he is a youngest ever winner of the Montreux Jazz Piano Competition. This kid is going to blow you away. And he said the he sees Keith Jarret in his dreams every night.

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