These concerts served as sink or swim lifelines he threw himself.
Colin Buttimer 2009
Three CDs containing two concerts’ worth of solo, wholly improvised piano music lasting two hours and 42 minutes. The bare facts of Keith Jarrett’s latest release for ECM may appear a little intimidating, but the music is truly exploratory, deeply felt and often very moving.
The first concert, recorded in Salle Pleyel, Paris in November 2008, is a rich, dark affair. The first two parts appear to gradually rise up out of roiling lower registers. It’s a little reminiscent of Chopin’s Preludes, whose darkly romantic sketches were described by Robert Schumann as “... ruins, individual eagle pinions, all disorder and wild confusions”. The comparison is leant weight by the circumstances in which the concerts took place: the pianist describes in the CD’s liner notes how these concerts served as sink or swim lifelines he threw himself after his wife of 30 years had left him.
Part III briefly spells out a gentle, forgiving melody that’s almost submerged by ringing notes as though Jarrett refuses the thought of clemency. Part IV is chaotic, notes spilling out in darting, thrilling runs shadowed by Jarrett’s freeform glossolalia. The effect is almost frightening in its physicality and forms a pivotal moment for the concert. Parts VI and VII lighten the mood and introduce a welcome sense of space and light. VII is shot through with hard-won benevolence and reaches for a glory that Part VIII deftly sidesteps with up-tempo note clusters and sudden pauses.
The second concert, recorded at London’s Royal Festival Hall a few days later, begins in similarly sombre territory, but Jarrett goes on to perform a much more varied set than Paris. Part II is fierce in its sudden, oblique attack while its strongly rhythmic basis drives the music forward. Part III is notably gospel-infused and celebratory while Part IV is the most delicate so far comprising waterfall-like high notes. Overall, the concert seems to lack the narrative cohesion of the first disc but it remains a pleasure to follow all the same.