Universally acclaimed as the pre-eminent piano trio of the planet, these three jazz superstars have been touring together for almost 30 years. Trio leader Keith Jarrett who is known also for his temperamental disposition and stormy exchanges with his adoring public, is undoubtedly one of the most dazzling solo piano improvisers in jazz history. A child prodigy, he began playing piano at the age of three and had played a recital by the time he was seven. He studied at Berklee, moved to New York and shot to fame.
In over 40 years he has performed with the Charles Lloyd Quartet and played and traveled the world with them until 1969, when he played electric keyboards and organ, along with Chick Corea with Miles Davis’ fusion group. He later swore off electric instruments and alienated many in the fusion genre by declaring electric instruments “a crutch”.
He formed a group with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haydn, and Paul Motion. They recorded over a dozen albums and played everything from hard bop to free jazz. In the mid 1970s, he recorded a series of live solo piano concerts. They include Solo Concerts, the mammoth Sun Bear Concerts, and the hugely successful Koln Concert, which sold over a million copies. In these concerts, he would sit down without any idea of what he would play, and start improvising.
Sometimes, two songs would make up an entire concert. At the Koln Concert the correct piano was not available, so he made do with one that was poorly tuned: the top end was shot and the bass lacked resonance, so he was restricted to the middle keys. He ended up improvising four songs on the middle keys: the result is unbelievably beautiful music. By the 1980s, he had recorded much classical music, in particular his critically acclaimed interpretations of Bach.
The trio with which he is currently touring and with whom he performs mostly jazz standards and improvisation was formed in the 1983 at the suggestion of ECM head Manfred Eicher. Personally, I prefer Jarrett solo, but if you have never had the chance to listen to him live, don’t miss this one.