One of the most wide-ranging of all Keith Jarrett’s performances, “The Carnegie Hall Concert” almost amounts to an autobiographical portrait of the great improviser. Each of his two sets takes the form of a suite of songs, some intensely lyrical, others angular, turbulent, or probing. And the encores – no less than five of them – touch upon the blues and boogie-woogie, upon standard material (“Time On My Hands”), and even offer a new perspective on “My Song”, written for the Scandinavian ‘Belonging’ quartet and first recorded by Jarrett in 1977.
In recent seasons, Jarrett has been readjusting his approach to solo improvisation. As he explained it to Down Beat last year, he has granted himself the periodic freedom to stop... and to grant each spontaneously-evolving musical idea no more than the space it requires. The long arcs of segued episodes that characterised earlier solo performances – including those released on albums including “The Köln Concert”, “Sun Bear Concerts”, “Vienna Concert” “La Scala” and many others – have been banished, replaced now by an emphasis on smaller forms:
“If I start to play and a minute-and-a-half later I feel a piece is over, I’ll stop. It’s the freedom to stop when stopping seems correct. I had got myself locked into a slightly too complicated situation where the rules I had made for myself had been governing me – instead of making simple rules that could take me somewhere new.”
“Radiance” and the DVD “Tokyo Solo”, both recorded in 2002 documented the beginning of this process. On “The Carnegie Hall Concert”, recorded at America’s prestigious recital hall in September 2005, it is clear that Jarrett is enjoying his new liberties, as is his audience.
“The Carnegie Hall Concert” was Jarrett’s first American solo concert in a decade.
In the Newark Star Ledger, Zan Stewart wrote: “A case can be made for Keith Jarrett being the prime living embodiment of the spirit and artistry of Charlie Parker. (...) It’s hard to think of someone who does it better.”
Wall Street Journal critic Larry Blumenfeld outlined the direction of the concert: “Mr Jarrett began with a piece that played like an overture: there were suggestions of a ballad coloured by splashes of harmony but these gave way to a cat and mouse game of contrapuntal lines. From there, pieces grew shorter and formed a succession that revealed melodic cohesion as well as stark contrasts (...) Whatever musical references Mr Jarrett’s improvisations called up for listeners, nothing sounded automatic or at all derivative throughout the evening. His brief pieces more often than not took the form of composed tunes – in many spots more memorably than most contemporary songs... Mr Jarrett has arrived at a newly satisfying solo approach – one that gives rise to songs that take shape and just as quickly disappear, and which may script a fresh chapter of his storied career.”
There were many such comments. The New York Times hailed the concert as “a major event”. All About Jazz praised the “astonishing expertise” and “astonishing clarity” of Jarrett’s performance, while Jazz Times praised his “innate and unerring sense of craft”.
The Los Angeles Times reported that “Jarrett’s critical hailed recital at New York’s Carnegie Hall spurred his return to a fuller touring schedule” – this has entailed both solo concerts and gigs with the long-established trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette. Coming soon are solo concerts at Paris’s newly re-opened Salle Pleyel on October 31 and November 3rd, followed by a number of dates in Spain and Portugal with the trio. A Japanese tour will take place in April and May 2007.