Keith Jarrett Rio Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Features performances which recall his career-defining early trio recordings.

Alyn Shipton 2011

Since he recorded the Köln Concert in 1975, Keith Jarrett’s solo recitals have come a long way. Back then, a single piece often lasted over 25 minutes, and the audience had to follow every twist and turn of Jarrett’s spur-of-the-moment improvising without coming up for air. Yet this long form neatly contained the full scope of Jarrett’s playing, from atonality to country-ish or gospel-tinged melodies, and from a gentle rhythmic lilt to hard-edged swing.

More recently, from the time of Radiance, recorded in Japan in 2002, Jarrett has separated the ingredients into bite-sized chunks. With an audience as ecstatic as the one at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, where his new album was cut in April 2011, this works to the advantage of both. Jarrett builds a rapport with his public, and they can more easily adapt to the changes of mood and genre as his ideas develop.

From a brittle opening that nods in the direction of such classical composers as George Antheil and Krzysztof Penderecki, Jarrett gradually works into his stride. The fourth fragment is a delightful lyrical ballad that keeps suggesting you’ve heard it somewhere before (except that you haven’t) and this leads directly into a propulsive, jazzy fifth section that is the climax of the first set.

The second set (and second CD of the boxed pair) is vintage Jarrett, developing ideas that go right back to his first trio recordings, and which defined him as a pianist. There’s the lilting Latin 6/8 of part eight, contrasting with the shimmering treble ornament of the following section. A brisk foray into atonal expressionism is followed by romping swing, leading to another tender ballad movement.

The final three sections have the perfect balance between compositional form and spontaneity, with the penultimate bluesy movement the standout. Maybe there were his usual strictures against coughers and photographers, but if they happened, they didn’t get in the way of Jarrett’s rapport with his audience. Overlooking an above average content of the pianist’s characteristic wheezes and groans, you get the sense that — like someone in the crowd at his last London solo concert — they’re all prepared to shout, "We love you, Keith!"

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