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Keith Jarrett Selected Recordings Review

Compilation. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

The prodigious pianist sifts through his back catalogue and selects some forgotten...

Peter Marsh 2002

ECMs :rarum compilations differ from the previous Works series in that the musicians themselves have put the material together. This in itself makes the albums worth investigating , even for the ECM completists among us.

Keith Jarrett's take on his own ECM catalogue is an intriguing one. Though the Standards Trio has been Jarrett's main Modus Operandi in the past couple of decades, the majority of this collection harks back to earlier, more eclectic ventures. In the process, it reaffirms Jarrett's scope and incredible ability as an improviser.

The album kicks off with three pieces from the extraordinary Book of Ways, which features Jarrett's baroque improv skills on the clavichord (playing three at once on occasion). The results echo back to Baroque's original role as context for improvisation and simultaneously (through the use of unconventional techniques) rockets it forward a few hundred years.

Spirits is also well represented, with Keith overdubbing soprano saxophone, recorders and percussion; the pieces narrowly avoid New Age ethno dabbling through Jarrett's good taste; his soprano playing in particular is beautifully, simply melodic.

Also present are two tracks from the (unavailable)Hymnns and Spheres record, with Keith at the pipe organ (knowing his anti-electric stance, one can only assume the bellows were hand operated). The Spheres are dense, improvised slabs of almost overwhelming power, with strange, shimmering textures and glassy drones coaxed from Jarrett's crafty half stop effects.

More typical Jarrett fare is on offer in the solo piano workouts; from the affable, country tinged warmth of "Heartland" to the dark restraint of "Recitative", his playing echoes Bud Powell, Bill Evans and Chopin's Nocturnes in equal measure, yet imitates none of them. What does stand out is Jarrett's incredible sense of structure, more evident on these shorter pieces than the sometimes wayward drift of his longer sets.

Group pieces by the Standards trio and the quartet with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen flesh out the set; the tracks with the quartet serve as a timely reminder of how great that band was; a worthy successor to the classic Dewey Redman/Charle Haden/Paul Motian lineup and probably the funkiest and most soulfulGarbarek's ever been...Jarrett's solos sparkle with invention in this setting.

This a beautifully put together collection from one of the century's great keyboard talents, and maybe even enough to make the less tolerant among us forgive Keith's 'artistic temperament' and his famous vocal interjections. Genius.

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