I remember where I was when I first heard Kennedy was shot (waiting to picked up from third grade)… and where I was when I first heard John Lennon was shot (making lunch at the house I shared with three other musicians in the Hollywood Hills)… But sometimes it doesn’t take an infamous murder to recall something for a long, long time. Like the first time I heard Keith Jarrett. That was some 35 years ago. I don’t remember whose house it was – some friend of a college friend in Portland Oregon. But I do recall lots of irrelevant details: the interior of the house, the weather (no, it wasn’t raining), the hazy quality of the afternoon light. The album was Facing You, Keith Jarrett’s first collection of solo compositions/improvisations. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It wasn’t so much the virtuosity of the performance as the incredible novelty of the rhythmic “feel”, unpredictable progressions, yet incredibly poignant melodies… I still return to that album when I need to “change the channel”. Other favorites include Staircase, My Song, and the recent Carnegie Hall Concert.
I’ve been fortunate enough to hear Jarrett live a few times, both solo and with his trio (with Jack De Johnette and Gary Peacocke). But I’ve found it’s very hard to find good examples of his work on YouTube or elsewhere. Here’s a piece from a Japan concert in 2002 that is well recorded and photographed. It might not rise to the level of his best work, but it does show one side of him very well: the sensitive balladeer.
UPDATE: for some reason the video in this clip is now upside down. The music, however, is still fine. Head-stands, anyone?