Aside from Miles Davis’ 1959 masterpiece, Kind of Blue, Keith Jarrett’s landmark 1975 recording, The Koln Concert, is probably the one album by a jazz artist that most non- jazz fans own. While hardly a jazz album itself—with its sensitive introspection and quiet lyricism, rhapsodic passages and melodic improvisation, Jarrett actually and unintentionally ushered in the New Age movement with this crystalline, revealing offering—The Koln Concert captured the imaginations of a generation of college students who have remained steadfast followers all these years later.
This 2-CD set, a document of an April 9, 2011 concert in Rio de Janeiro, marks the 40th anniversary of Jarrett’s very first solo piano recording, 1971’s Facing You, which was, like The Koln Concert that followed, an equally luminous and spontaneously improvised project. Forty years later, the scope of the pianist’s range of expression in this naked, stream- of-consciousness setting seems wider, at times more informed by dissonance and angularity (as on “Part I” and “Part X”) while retaining the same poetic touches, dramatic use of silence, and emotionally- charged moments that marked both Facing You and The Koln Concert (particularly evident on “Part II” and “Part IX”).
The bouncy, waltz-time, slightly gospel- tinged “Part III” seems uncharacteristically giddy and uplifting (though not necessarily so in the wake of some of his more ebullient work in recent years with his standards trio of Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock) while “Part IV” is as lush and wistful as “Moonlight in Vermont,”
“Autumn in New York,” “Stella By Starlight” or any of the other romantic standards that he regularly plays with the trio. Longtime Jarrett converts will kvell over “Part V,” which will trigger fond, youthful memories of The Koln Concert, particularly the rhythmically-charged piece “Part II a” (can’t this guy ever come up with any titles for his spontaneous compositions?).
Disc 2 includes more beautiful examples of his singular lyricism (as on “Part VII,” which includes a couple of those spontaneous ecstatic “yelps” that make Jarrett fans tingle). The vaguely flamenco flavored trifle “Part VIII” sounds oddly like a reject from a summer stock production of Man of La Mancha, while the cascading and emotionally moving “Part IX” and the rhapsodic “Part XII” show the full measure of the man’s genius. “Part XI” is a rare example of Jarrett “getting down” on a boogie-styled blues, and he delivers in the jaunty, extroverted fashion of a Tuts Washington or Champion Jack Dupree. And the exuberant “Part XIV” has him going to church on a catchy, toe-tapping, gospel-soaked refrain with plenty of virtuosic fills thrown in (accompanied, unfortunately, by his annoying wordless vocals). The encore number, “Part XV,” is as delicate and mesmerizing and affecting as anything Jarrett has ever recorded.
ECM’s sonics are pristine. Jarrett’s Bösendorfer piano rings out in the Theatro Municipal with resounding authority and remarkable clarity on the more forceful numbers while each pearly note in the spacious ballads hangs in the hall with luminous beauty. (Unfortunately Engineer Martin Pearson’s miking also picks up every little orgasmic yelp that Jarrett utters during the course of this 90-minute concert.)
More focused and concise than 2009’s 3-CD solo set, Paris/London (Testament), Rio radiates energy and daring, and should provide even the most die-hard Jarrett junkies with their much-needed fix