Share thoughts on Keith Jarrett

Last night, I saw Keith Jarrett performing solo at the Symphony Center. Tremendously emotional concert with four encores. Now, this is why I'm posting: The person who I was supposed to attend the concert with, informed me, on Tuesday night, that she couldn't go. "No problem", I thought: "Who wouldn't jump at the chance to see Keith Jarrett live", a performer who I consider to be right up there with the likes of Davis, Monk, and Coltrane, all jazz elite and all household names. It took me two full days to find someone who even heard of this guy. I'll continue to hold him in place of high esteem regardless of the comments I get here, but I'm curious: Am I incorrect to place him so highly, or are their others who find his relative anonymity amazing?
I think he's great.He's a hall of famer in my opinion.I have never seen him in concert but it must be something special.I have trouble finding people who listen to jazz regularly in general - not one person at work and only two friends that I can think of off the top of my head.
He was out of the business for a while so he's making a comeback of sorts. I understand he was ill for a while but is better.
I personally love his music. And yes some of his ECM recordings are stellar on LP and CD...Up there with Miles etc? I don't know...but who cares...just listen some more :)
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Very talented but too slick sounding for my tastes.Reminds me of Al Jarreau.No were near the likes of Davis,Monk or Coltrane.
I am a big fan and for sure his ECM recordings are phenomenal. I think he is very well known within the relatively small niche of jazz afficionados. But beyond that circle it will be hard to find folks who are familiar with him, let alone Tomasz Stanko, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, etc...These are hardly pop sensations but very well known in the world of jazz.
I personally think he is a wonderul musician. He's not popular (or known) the way pop or rock musicians are, but he is probably the most popular jazz musician today - if one measures popularity in terms of how big a venue a performer can fill.
Keith Jarrett is in my opinion one of the best jazz musicians of his generation. I've enjoyed his music from Koln Concert to present and he never ceases to amaze me with his artistry. I would love to see him in concert and plan to if he ever comes to Portland. I listen to jazz more than any other genre and of the many superb musicians most of my listening is spent with Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. He's a truly great artist IMHO.
To me, Jarrett is a true original. No one plays piano like he does, tries the things he does, and bold about it... now weather you LIKE what he does is another matter. A few recordings stand out for me, "Arbour Zena", "Luminessence" and "Nude Ants"... from the late 70's. In the same category as Miles? hmmm... there were times, for me, when Miles wasn't in the same category of Miles.. :)
Well, he's very prolific, and there are different phases of Jarrett's work, just as there were with Miles (and no, I don't put him on the same level with Miles). I do like his recordings on Impulse in the 70s with Dewey Redman and Charlie Haden, and more recently, his long running trio with Gary Peacock and Jack Dejohnette. Some very good stuff there.

Of course, there are lots and lots of solo recordings, and though I do enjoy listening to them from time to time, I also have a hard time focusing enough to tell them apart. But I'd recommend those trio recordings, as well as the Impulse records, to anybody who is interested in jazz.
Keith's improvisation of music is erratic and the substance of his material s very inconsistent . I fell in love with his music after listening to the Koln Concert. It has been down hill since then. Sometimes the material he plays is dead on but mostly he is off. Over the last 30 years I can count only two albums that he has made that are very good and maybe 10 that are less than average at best. The more he plays the less interested I am in his music.
I'm spining his new LP "Yesterdays" on ECM. This is a incredible recording and music. While not solo piano, It's up there Koln Concert
My favorite Jarrett recordings are the one's he made as a young man with the charles lloyd quartet. his talent is undeniable, but his recordings as bandleader or solo don't 'connect' with me.
IMO Keith Jarrett can't be mentioned in the same conversation with Miles, Coltrane, and Monk. A small example: All anyone has to say are the names "Miles," "Coltrane," or "Monk" and many people will immediately know who they are by only part of their name. Not true of "Jarrett."
he's ok, not great...I can think of other contemporary jazz pianists who are his equal if not better
I know he's a great musician, but never could learn to love him.
Miles & Coltrane are in another league, IMO.
He is so taken with his idea of his own 'genius' that his improvisations tend to be monumentally self indulgent, and what is worse, self aggrandizing. I find that he never really invents, but merely elaborates, which is different. Overly and artificially 'dramatic', dynamically forced, and saturated with a sense of 'here it comes people, listen to ME'. I personally cannot stand his music even though he was a great side man. His solo recordings nauseate me.
Thanks everyone - Lots of excellent points coming from different perspectives. Posting mere hours after experiencing the emotions of a great musical journey might, in retrospect, have been ill advised. Truth told, he doesn't "always" click with me either. But because he is so prolific, a fan can easily assemble a collection of a dozen or so recordings that appeals to him, and then come to regard those as a body of work, ignoring the majority of recordings that strikes him indifferently. This alone should probably preclude his name being mentioned alongside Miles.
I noticed similar situation of ''who is he - not that great'' when the magnificent Oscar Peterson passed away, a true original who walked on much higher ground imho.
Peterson is of course a different style, but one many tried to copy with no success. Back to Jarret - to me he is a very fine talent, but one that leaves me somewhat indefferent, not unlike Kenny G. Highly subjective of course.
I'd like to try more of his recordings, but the one I do have turned me completely off with his nasally vocalizations. I thought my tweeters were buzzing...are they all like this?
Nice comment above about Keith Jarrett and a sideman.

I recently saw a documentary on Miles Davis that focused on his early fusion bands. There was some really nice footage of the band playing an Isle of Wight festival. Jarrett and Chick Corea were on keyboards, Gary Bartz sax, Dave Holland Fender bass, Jack DeJohnette drums and Airto percussion. The music was fiery/challenging/difficult/chaotic etc. and Jarrett was right on top of it. Jarrett was also in Mile's "Live/Evil"/"Cellar Door" band where he also was fabulous.

I also particularly like his playing on Kenny Wheeler's "Gnu High".

Like any serious artist Jarrett will inspire both positive and negative responses. Overall, I believe he has had an extremely impressive career. Even if you don't like him, you can't not respect him.
"not unlike Kenny G. Highly subjective of course."

Subjective or not, that's a lousy thing to say! Take it back!
i'm in the ok-but-not great camp; he's a trailblazer in terms of popularizing the long-form solo concert thing, but there's a certain new-agey, samey quality to much of his voluminous output (plus the humming is a turnoff). he's technically proficient, and i do still listen to him in my rare contemplative moments, but there's a number of other pianists with more swing and a broader palate that i prefer (e.g. vijay iyer, robert glasper)
And then there's the grunting :)...

Like a lot of artists, I just wonder if he's being a little too prolific with releases. I'm fond of the earlier stuff: Solo COncerts (Bremen - Lausanne - sp?), Koln Concert, Eyes of the Heart, etc.. His specialty is obviously improvisations but if the past is any indication it seems like its always hit or miss with Jarrett and it will continue to be that way.

Come to think of it, that probably says something about improvisation anyway. If the inspiration is lacking or even if its there you can't always capture it and make something beautiful from it. In essence, its a gamble.
I don't mind the grunting...when Glenn Gould does it. That is because the playing makes it worth it. Jarrett is just a newager with a slightly better technique. Not a towering instrumentalist like some procliam, in my opinion.
A lot of the stuff he put out in the early 70's w/ Charlie Haden, Paul Motian and Dewey Redman and the Miles Davis work put him light years away from being new age. I'm nowhere near liking everything he does, but he's been on some great records.
"not unlike Kenny G. Highly subjective of course."

Subjective or not, that's a lousy thing to say! Take it back!

Why should I take it back?

1. Comparing anyone to Kenny G. is no insult.
2. You seem to be a Kenny G fan, nothing wrong with that.
3. Music preferences is a matter of personal taste.
4. Who are you to judge what is proper and what is not?

Audiogon usually does a pretty good thing of removing negative posts - this isn't one of them.

Stay positive, this is only a forum !
There are two Jarretts--the solo improvisor, and the standards trio player, and the latter, to my mind, is incomparable. I've got everything the trio recorded since Standards 1 came out, and while it's not all my cup of tea, there is something about the Jarrett/Peacock/DeJohnette combination that I've yet to find anywhere else. For me, the greatest of Jarrett's playing is on the slower tunes--the ballads in particular. Pick up the 6 cd set, "Live at the Blue Note," and listen to "Skylark," "My Romance," "In the Wee Small Hours," "For Heaven's Sake." My only test is the test of time: they always sound as fresh to me on the fortieth hearing as they do on the first. Someone recommended the Brad Mehldau Trio as a successor to the standards trio. Listened, but it's not there for me. Jarrett's solo stuff leaves me indifferent, except when it moves toward the lyrical, as it does for example, on the Carnegie Hall Concert's "The Good America." As for the original question about Jarrett's relative obscurity: America is a great country, about which I can muster considerable patriotism. But difficult pleasures is not its strong suit. Mos Def, Taylor Swift, Taco Bell, Olive Garden.
As for the original question about Jarrett's relative obscurity: America is a great country, about which I can muster considerable patriotism. But difficult pleasures is not its strong suit. Mos Def, Taylor Swift, Taco Bell, Olive Garden.

Sad but true and well put.
Here, to my mind, is Jarrett and the Trio at their best. And if I had to pick one moment from all of these, it would be what happens between, say, 3:50 and 4:30 mark on “When You Wish,” especially when Peacock does that simple but lovely little melodic run up the bass at 4:20. You know it’s good when it produces that kind of joy.

Funny Valentine

Autumn Leaves

When You Wish Upon A Star
I know this is completely in a different direction - but watching Jarret play ( and he IS good), man, do I miss the late great Oscar Peterson. Untouchable.
"this is only a forum !"

Of course it is. That's precisely why I took the liberty of having a little fun with you. I guess I made the mistake of thinking that my phrasing could be taken as nothing other than humorously intended. Thanks for your posts and sorry for the untimely response.
I've been giving a lot of play to "Jasmine" with Charlie Haden joining Keith Jarrett. These guys are superb together and if you have a romantic bone in your body, I'm confident that you'll love their selection of music:

"For all we know"
"Where can I go without you"
"No moon at all"
"One day I'll fly away"
"I'm gonna laugh you right out of my life"
"Body and soul"
"Don't ever leave me
I have been listening to K.J. for 40 years and he has been playing for 60 years.Very few of us if any can get their head around his body of work.If it means anything to you I have encountered few musicians who dont think he is a genius.There isn't enough time to go into his myriad accomplishments but suffice to say you and I are lucky to be alive at the same time he is.Thats right I am a big fan.
I think he is one of the greatest living jazz musicians on the planet. Brilliantly combining the technical aspect of playing with conveyed emotion.
I think he is a great musician. Love his albums "The Melody At Night With You" and "Tabula Rasa", an album of Arvo Part compositions he did with the violinist Gidon Kremer. Hardcore jazz fans, however, seem to dismiss him because he is vaguely accessible.
There is a lot of K. Jarrett I enjoy listening to, but there is also quite a bit I can't because of his annoying orgasmic vocalizations, or whatever you want to call it. Köln Concerts is certainly one of the great albums of all time, but I don't consider Jarrett one of the giants of jazz with the likes of Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, et al. His influence certainly isn't off their stature.
To me, The Koln Concert to this day is ONE, if not THE most hypnotizingly beautiful pieces of recorded music I own. Inspired by the Koln Concert I started a long journey discovery his music and between the 25+ Jarrett CDs I own I find myself coming back to his European Quartet recordings ("My Song", "Belonging" and in particular "Personal Mountains") and his improvised / orginal recordings with the trio ("changeless", "changes"). The "standards" recordings with the trio never stood out to me as overly original or innovative, and none of the other solo concerts touched me as the Koln concert. I recently downloaded "Paris/London testament in 96/24" and there is some real good stuff there. However, nothing will ever hit me as first hearing the Koln Concert on my crappy record player as a melancholic 20 year old.
Just to keep the conversation going, I wonder if those of us who are fans could try to list some of the things about Jarrett's playing, writing, and bandleading that are distinctive.

Or make references to essays, links, books, that do this especially well.

In other words, how is his playing different from, say, Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau? The typical jazz textbook surveys, like those by Gioia (who loves pianists) and DeVeaux/Giddins (who are more horn-oriented than Gioia), and the little JAZZ 101 by Szwed, are appreciative of Jarrett in terms of impressionism, neo-romanticism, and mixing gospel and rock styles with improv-heavy open arrangements, but we could we also talk about the nature of his touch, use of space, harmony, phrasing?

As a particularly big fan of jazz ballads, I kind of see Jarrett as the linking figure between Evans (someone I'm utterly convinced was a giant of piano improvisation and trio conception, and an inevitable influence on Jarrett's acoustic style) and Mehldau (who strikes me as close to Jarrett in many ways, notably in his rockish ways, use of simple vamps, and tendency toward long single-note runs in right hand, compared with Evans more two-handed chord-shifting style).

And I kind find favorite Jarrett records from each of his phases, but I always like him better when playing with others.
Oh and I neglected to mention Paul Bley above. I was just listening to him today and thought, wow, now there's someone who really pared back the pianistic language and led to a post-Ornette highly melodic, less chordal style.
Keith Jarrett is a great artist. I have always had a love/hate relationship with his music. Any criticism of his playing will surely come accross as stronger than warranted. But comparison to giants like Bill Evans is going to be tough (on Jarrett). It is hard not to love and appreciate a player with so much passion, and understanding of the language of jazz. But...(there is often a "but" when I listen to him), for me, there is a feeling that his playing shouts: "listen to this, listen to how I well I understand this language!"

Clearly, this is a subjective thing. Even the most tender moments in his playing sometime have a premeditated quality; as opposed to the more organic, purely spontaneous, poetic quality in Bill Evans' playing. There is no question that Jarrett has a lot to say, and he says it very well. But, I sometimes get the feeling that the reason his improvisations are so long is that he doesn't know how to stop.

Jarrett plays with a certain earnestness that is sometimes offputting for me. Evans played with a deep sense of melancholy, and a more subtle sense of swing. Technically speaking, Jarrett produces a more percussive, brilliant tone on the piano, as opposed to the more covered, mellower tone that Evans produced. There is very little ambiguity in Jarrett's technique; every note is distinct. Evans' pianistic approach was more subtle, and he liked to play upbeats as "ghost notes"; notes barely heard before the stronger downbeat; but there is far less musical ambiguity. As far as the logic of their respective improvisational styles goes, listen to the examples in the links below, and listen to each of the two players' improvised choruses, and ask yourself which of the two improvisations more easily lets the listener follow the melody of the song while it is being improvised upon. That is one of the basic tenets of improvised jazz: stretch out as much as you want, but can one still folllow the tune?
I agree with Foster_9. It's possible I haven't heard enough by Keith. What I have heard didn't impress me.
Great post, Frogman. Good reading!

The poignancy of Bill Evans' best recordings, combined with the outrageous virtuosity of his harmonic reworkings of materials, and his famous touch, plus his compositions, far outdistance Jarrett for me too.

That said, I've really appreciated many Jarrett records, almost always when playing with others. I'm one of those oddballs who really doesn't like KOLN CONCERT much at all. Those "gospel-ish" arpeggios and the high-pitched drama are really off-putting to me. But the 70s band with Motian, Redman, et al: that's some goood stuff. And the standards trio of the 1980s as well. And then the very recent standards albums (one of duets with Haden) and the other solo (but not long-form improv) are strikingly good and approach the impact of Evans' best.

Perhaps some wiser head could educate me as to how best to listen to Jarrett's solo sets. I'm not allergic to solo improv (with no "head") on piano, though it is a hard-sell: I love Cecil Taylor and Muhal Richard Abrams and Misha Mengelberg, for example. But they are in a different strain of post-bop jazz than the Jarrett/Evans/Mehldau strain, I would say.
Thanks Paanders, and thanks for opening the door for further discussion beyond the "He's great"/"He sucks" realm. With some welcomed exceptions, more in-depth discussion/analysis of music and artists is sorely missing in these discussions; IMO. I know some listeners feel that analysis somehow leads to dimished visceral enjoyment. I could not agree less. I suppose it does for some. That is too bad, because analysis can lead to an even deeper understanding and enjoyment.

***I've really appreciated many Jarrett records, almost always when playing with others. I'm one of those oddballs who really doesn't like KOLN CONCERT much at all. Those "gospel-ish" arpeggios and the high-pitched drama are really off-putting to me. But the 70s band with Motian, Redman, et al: that's some goood stuff. And the standards trio of the 1980s as well. And then the very recent standards albums (one of duets with Haden) and the other solo (but not long-form improv) are strikingly good and approach the impact of Evans' best.***

I agree with every point you make.

To those who IMO are critical of Jarrett without putting the criticism in proper perspective, I quote Xiekitchen:

***In the same category as Miles? hmmm... there were times, for me, when Miles wasn't in the same category of Miles.. :)***