«Title of Document: A DEEP JOY INSIDE IT: THE MUSICAL AESTHETICS OF KEITH JARRETT Jason C. McCool, Master of Arts, 2005 Directed By: Dr. Richard G. ...»
Keith Jarrett, “Sons of Miles: Keith Jarrett, the Well-Tempered Jazz-Band,” interview by Mike Zwerin, Culture Kiosque, 25 June 1998, accessed on 8 June 2004, available at http://www.culturekiosque.com/jazz/miles/rhemile13.htm concerti by Brahms and Gershwin, and finishing with several of his original jazz compositions.”9 A Melody Maker review of Jarrett’s 1974 quartet album Belonging reads: “Keith Jarrett continues to dumbfound in his capacity as the most versatile jazz musician alive.”10 The release of a new Keith Jarrett album always generates excitement in jazz and even mainstream press – in addition to countless reviews in jazz periodicals, feature articles on Jarrett were published in major national publications (e.g., The New York Times and Time) upon the release of his 1999 album The Melody at Night, With You. Perhaps most striking is the following statistic – Jarrett’s 1975 recording The Köln Concert, the album that basically launched his solo career, has sold over two million copies, making it the best-selling solo piano album of any genre. For an artist whose music tends to be as relentlessly thorny and uncompromising as Jarrett’s, it is a wonder that he maintains this almost fanatical, rock-star like aura within American musical life. Jarrett plays the world’s most prestigious venues – Carnegie Hall, La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, and so forth – and these concerts consistently sell out.
Indeed, Jarrett’s status as a quasi-celebrity of American music contributes to his profound influence in modern jazz.
Jarrett is a major influence on young jazz musicians today; a woefully incomplete list of jazz pianists who have been influenced by Jarrett might include Brad Mehldau, Walsh, “Growing Into the Silence.” Liner notes to Swinging Big Sound: Don Jacoby and the College All-Stars, Decca Records, 1962.
Joachim Kühn, Geri Allen, Mulgrew Miller, Ted Rosenthal, Lyle Mays, Esbjorn Svensson, and the late Michel Petrucciani. Mehldau, perhaps the only widely recognized jazz talent to emerge in the past ten years, discusses his influences as a teenage student of jazz, “A friend of mine gave me Keith Jarrett's Bremen and Lausanne. … it was kind of like, discovering that that was possible on the piano, what he was doing. I think I could relate to it, coming from the classical side of things.”11 ECM aesthetic Keith Jarrett’s musical aesthetics are intimately tied up with those of the influential German-based ECM label. Since the early 1970s, ECM has provided the jazz and classical worlds with a gold standard for musical introversion and depth coupled with famously pristine recording quality. Within the jazz community, ECM is enormously popular and well respected, even if it does occasionally draw fire for displaying what some consider a patently Euro-centric austerity at odds with the “roots” of jazz. In any case, ECM’s role seems to have outgrown the traditional boundaries of a mere record label. The “ECM aesthetic” has come to suggest a recognizable, reverential approach to music-making, and stylistically, it has probably influenced jazz as much as any other identifiable “movement” in the past 30 years.
Since his 1972 solo release Facing You, Jarrett has worked with legendary ECM producer Manfred Eicher, who has supervised the recording of close to fifty of Jarrett’s albums. This sort of long-standing, symbiotic relationship between record ECM promotional insert to Jarrett’s 1977 album Staircase.
label, producer, and artist is unprecedented in jazz history, though Rudy Van Gelder’s production work for the Blue Note label during the 1960s perhaps provides a precedent.12 During his tenure at ECM, Jarrett has given the label an instantly recognizable musical identity, and to some degree has become a bankable “star,” so rare in the jazz world. Additionally, Jarrett’s ventures into classical music provided at least some of the impetus behind the ECM New Series, which since its incorporation in the mid 1970s has been a highly regarded forum for innovative classical recordings, focusing mainly on early music and new music.13 Not surprisingly, Jarrett’s influence also shows up in ECM’s current roster of musicians.
On his 1997 album Barzakh, the Arabic oud player Anouar Brahem lists Jarrett as a primary influence. Popular Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, a member of Jarrett’s 1970s “European quartet,” remains affected by Jarrett’s aesthetics.
Numerous pianists who have recently recorded for ECM, such as the Swedish Bobo Stenson, the Norwegian Tord Gustavsen, the Greek Vassilis Tsabropoulos and the Americans Marilyn Crispell and Michael Cain, are all influenced by Jarrett’s piano style.
Brad Mehldau, A Conversation with Brad Mehldau, interview with Fred Jung, All About Jazz, accessed 8 June 2004, available from http://www.allaboutjazz.com/iviews/bmehldau.htm Van Gelder’s work for Blue Note, however, did not focus on, or come to be associated with, one specific artist to the extent that Eicher has with Jarrett’s music.
ECM New Series boasts recordings of some of classical music’s most highly respected artists and ensembles, including composers Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, John Adams, Meredith Monk, and György Kurtag, pianists Robert Levin, Andras Schiff, and Peter Serkin, violist Kim Kashkashian, and the Hilliard Ensemble (arguably the preeminent vocal group in early music), who now record exclusively for ECM.
Influence in popular music A further aspect of Jarrett’s influence exists in the doors that his poly-stylistic approach has opened for musicians coming from the pop and rock worlds. The critical, popular, and artistic success of Jarrett’s classical albums has encouraged numerous modern musicians to listen to (and be influenced by) a wide range of classical music. Renowned vocalist, bare-footed conductor and all-around creative savant Bobby McFerrin, whose free-wheeling aesthetics are profoundly influencing the presentation of contemporary classical music, claims that Jarrett’s solo piano improvisations provided the initial inspiration for his own unaccompanied vocal work. The popular rock musician Dave Matthews once stated that Jarrett’s Köln Concert contains some of his favorite music, and also claimed that “I'm inspired by piano players like Keith Jarrett and Abdullah Ibrahim. The melodies they play just thrill me because they jump a long way through different ranges.”14 Perhaps most strikingly, infamous rocker and Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger once named Jarrett as “the individual whom he most looks up to in music.”15 Jeffrey Rotter, hippyhippyshake, SPIN, accessed on 8 June 2004, available from http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/6580/hippie.html Ian Carr. Keith Jarrett: the Man and his Music. (London: Da Capo Press, 1991), 134.
Chapter 3: Jarrett’s Musical Flexibility Musical tendencies Jarrett’s insistence on always heeding (and documenting) the inclinations of his muse has led him to record an incredibly diverse array of music. Jarrett has been involved in a plurality of musical contexts crossing boundaries between the jazz and classical worlds: stylistically wide-ranging group and solo improvisation, orchestral, chamber, and solo composition, and performance of works from the classical canon. Outside of his classical performance and compositional efforts, however, Jarrett is perhaps best described as an “improviser.” In 1972, Jarrett happened upon what was, to some degree, an entirely new genre of music (or at least one patently unfamiliar to Western audiences), a method of solo performance relying completely upon improvisation. Significantly, these “solo concerts” are not based upon pre-existing thematic material, in the manner of “theme and variations” improvisation. Since performing his first solo concerts in the early 1970s, Jarrett’s identity has become associated with this forum perhaps more than any other aspect of his career. Jarrett has recorded dozens of these pieces, which are for the most part widely dissimilar to each other, and certainly unique in the modern musical world.
Success as classical artist Perhaps most unusual about Jarrett’s role in modern music is his chameleon-like ability to successfully traverse musical boundaries. Outside of the jazz medium, where he obviously has made his greatest mark, Jarrett has recorded numerous critically acclaimed versions of canonical classical works. Through these recordings and performances, Jarrett has gained the respect of the classical music establishment to a degree that has eluded other “jazz” musicians; indeed, Jarrett seems one of the few “non-gimmicky” jazz musicians performing classical music. Paradoxically, though Jarrett’s own aesthetics seem far removed from the hyper-competitive classical music award circuit, he has garnered the attention of noteworthy international awards panels. (Sadly, as is the case with many American jazz musicians, it is only outside of the U.S. that Jarrett has received widespread accolades; in Germany and Japan, Jarrett is treated with the sort of respect and admiration that the American musical world reserves for classical conductors and soloists.) In 2003, Jarrett was awarded the prestigious Polar Music Prize, a Swedish award given annually to two important figures of the music world – past winners have included Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Ravi Shankar.
In terms of Jarrett’s reception in the classical arena, reviewers seem to have consistently praised Jarrett’s competence, if not always his interpretive vision. The notoriously tough-to-please editors of The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs said of Jarrett’s recording of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II, “Keith Jarrett is a highly intelligent and musical player whose readings can hold their own against the current opposition.”16 Time classical reviewer Michael Walsh boldly stated that “Jarrett’s 1989 recording of the Goldberg Variations is the finest since Glenn Gould’s.”17 Tastes in classical music Considering his own free-wheeling iconoclasm in jazz, Jarrett’s tastes in classical music seem almost conservative – he has frequently made reference to J.S. Bach and Handel, calling Handel “one of the most underrated composers.”18 Jarrett also claims to have been inspired by Serge Prokofiev: “Prokofiev’s melodic intelligence is one of the, I think, key elements that … gave me strength during the years I was trying to find my voice.” Jarrett “unofficially” dedicated the slow movement from his own Sonata for Violin and Piano (1984) to Prokofiev.
Classical recording history In addition to the Goldberg Variations and both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Jarrett has recorded J.S. Bach’s complete French and English Suites, and on harpsichord, has accompanied Bach’s 6 Sonatas for Flute and Keyboard, BWV 1030with Michala Petri playing recorder) and Bach’s 3 Sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord, BWV 1027-1029 (with violist Kim Kashkashian). Jarrett’s classical discography also includes piano concertos of Mozart (he recorded six of these works with esteemed conductor Dennis Russell Davies), two discs of Handel keyboard works, and the 24 Preludes and Fugues by Shostakovich, a work referred to Ivan Marsh, Edward Greenfield, and Robert Layton. The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs.
(London: Penguin Books, 1996), 53.
Walsh, “Growing Into the Silence.” Carr, Keith Jarrett, 100.
by musicologist Wilfrid Mellers as a 20th century version of the Well-Tempered Clavier.19 Jarrett’s 20th century repertoire consists mostly of music written by tonally-based and often “spiritually inclined” composers. Keith Jarrett has also participated in recordings of new music by the Estonian mystic composer Arvo Pärt as well as the Americans Lou Harrison, Alan Hovhaness, Colin McPhee, and Peggy Glanville-Hicks. Though he never recorded these works, in the 1980s Jarrett performed piano concertos by Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky, and with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Samuel Barber’s piano concerto.
Other musicians who have held dual careers Of course, it is not entirely uncommon for musicians to “cross over” from one musical camp to another. The classical pianist, conductor, and composer Andre Previn provides perhaps the most famous example of a modern musician with a dualgenre career, although his classical credentials dwarf his achievements in jazz.20 Other well-known classical musicians who have dabbled in what they themselves, or others, have called “jazz” include violinists Itzhak Perlman, Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin, and Nigel Kennedy, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, and pianists Friedrich Gulda, Michel Legrand, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet. At least partially because of the technical demands of most classical music, performers who have come to classical performance from the jazz world are more rare. A list of these performers includes Benny Goodman, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, and recently, one pianist whose career has in a way progressed alongside Jarrett’s, his fellow Miles Davis bandmate Liner notes to Jarrett’s recording of these pieces.
Chick Corea. Additionally, the great jazz composer Duke Ellington often succeeded in incorporating elements borrowed from classical music into his jazz compositions, such as large-scale compositional structure, harmonic complexity, and refined orchestration. Interestingly, however, in contrast to Keith Jarrett, Ellington’s greatest legacy in jazz lies in his role as a composer, not a performer.
As a side note, it is interesting to ponder Previn’s puzzling, though perhaps telling, anecdotal criticism of Jarrett’s solo concerts: “Anyone can sit at the piano and move their fingers.” Chapter 4: Jarrett in Jazz Jarrett’s pedigree/legacy in jazz Keith Jarrett’s music represents an extension of the jazz tradition, and clearly, it is within the jazz world that Jarrett’s music and aesthetics are most easily located.