08 março 2013

Deixa-me rir...

"Caros Audiophiles, I was introduced a few years ago to Keith Jarrett's famous The Köln Concert 1975 recording, still the best-selling solo album in jazz and the best-selling piano album in any genre. And last week I had the rare opportunity to see him live solo in concert.

Jarrett is celebrated in both the classical and jazz genres. But he is most especially famous for his improvisation in his concerts, walking onto the stage and creating spontaneous musical pieces. As someone once described: it is as if he has been blindfolded and kidnapped, and then released in a far away forest. Not knowing where to go but knowing how to get there. 

On this night, he was suffering from a heavy cold and unspecified illness. Once or twice he stopped playing in order to leave the stage. He complained about audience noise and flash photography. Apparently he insists always on 'no photographs' because it is distracting. I empathise, especially about audience whispering during performance. But before one final encore when one person apparently ignored him (I did not see a flash), he was quite rude in his repeated insistence and claimed that his 60-year piano career deserved total respect. A little bit of a male diva. A little less empathy.

Ironically, he himself during his playing makes body and face contorsions, and moans and grunts and strange squeaky noises. Sometimes this feels like he is 'in the moment', but sometimes, in the quieter more romantic pieces, this is as annoying as hearing Maria Sharapova hitting a tennis ball. And yet, he is mesmerising.

I cannot possibly do justice to Keith Jarrett's place in jazz history, and so I have plagiarised some review extracts from The Guardian and AllMusic articles, which express much better than I am able the musical genius and popular appeal of Keith Jarrett:

Thirty-eight years ago Keith Jarrett, the now 67-year-old pianist and composer from Allentown, Pennsylvania, crossed a gulf usually unbridgeable for either jazz or classical performers – and this virtuoso happens to be both.

Jarrett's message from the keyboard began with the small community of an informed and dedicated minority jazz audience, and reached the huge worldwide constituency of listeners. His albums appeared in the collections of people who would normally cross the street to avoid buying a jazz record. Every pot-smoking dazed and confused university kid owned this - "because the chicks dig it" - as one of the truly classic jazz records, along with Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck's Take Five, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and 'something by Grover Washington Jr'.

From the mid-1970s onward, his concerts began to resemble religious rituals, attended by flocks of devotees for whom his music had a meditative, spiritual and transformative power. All this stemmed from the recording of a single album – conceived as a live concert by a sleep-deprived Jarrett on a faulty grand piano – made in Köln, Germany, on 24 January 1975. 

From The Köln Concert's glistening, patiently developed opening melody, through sustained passages of roaring riffs and folk country-song exuberance, meditating on harmonic invention and melodic construction, the pianist is utterly 'inside' his ongoing vision of the performance's developing shape – a fusion of the freshness of an improvisation with the symmetries of a composition that is central to the album's communicative power. Harmonically and melodically, it wasn't a particularly "jazzy" record by the piano-jazz standards of that time, which no doubt helped it to cross over the sectarian divides of jazz, pop and classical tastes. 

Inspired by the great pianist Bill Evans, one of the young Jarrett's jazz heroes who in 1959 had recorded the meditative solo improvisation Peace Piece - built around a simple repeated two-chord rhythm in which the harmonies stretched increasingly abstractly as the performance progressed - Jarrett's playing on The Köln Concert in a similar way developed around repeating hook-like motifs, instead of unfolding over song-structure chord sequences as most bop-based jazz solos did at that time.

Jarrett's improvisation is hypnotically rhythmic, almost like mantra. He is not afraid to find a compelling idea and stay with it, building intensity on a single rhythmic idea in a manner that still sounds contemporary. A pop-like use of repetition, and a reassuringly anchored sense of tonal consistency contributes to the music's astonishingly organic feel. 

Contrary to the trend at that time for jazz-rock fusion and avant-garde, Keith Jarrett brought quiet and lyricism to his improvisation. 

His concert performance was not pre-meditated before he sat down to play. All of the gestures, intricate droning harmonies, skittering and shimmering melodic lines, and whoops and sighs from the man himself are spontaneous. 

With this album, Jarrett put himself in his own league, and you can feel the inspiration coming off him in waves. It speaks volumes about a musician and a music that opened up the world of jazz to so many who had been excluded. This is a true and lasting masterpiece of melodic, spontaneous composition and improvisation that set the standard. 

But The Köln Concert isn't universally admired by jazz afficionados. Some find it too close to 'easy listening' in its repetition of catchy melody, and too far from the jazz tradition in its avoidance of many of the jazz genre's familiar components. But Jarrett's remarkably varied output since that time - his interpretations of classical works, his re-invention of the Bill Evans-inspired conversational trio with drums and double bass, his engagement with everything from symphony orchestras to cathedral organs - and an enduring popularity that sells out the world's great concert halls months in advance, testify to his creativity and eloquence. 

Only 29 years old at the time of the Köln Concert, Köln was Jarrett's moment. Experiencing the feeling of total trust in his imagination, he said later: "My glasses were falling off, my pants were twisted up, I was sweating, crouching, standing up, sitting down, and I was thinking 'nothing can stop me now'.

The Koln Concert is too long to post complete. However, here are two extracts - Part 2a and 2c - which I hope will encourage you to check out the whole concert:

And finally here is a video of the man himself performing an encore at his Tokyo '84 concert, complete with his tendency for foot-tapping, jumping and grunting noises:

A proxima.

2 comentários:

Anónimo disse...

Obrigadíssima P.O. por este post mesmo a saber a fim-d-semana antecipado. MZ

Anónimo disse...

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