The constant balancing act that is Keith Jarrett

“I seem to recall that the hotel was either adjacent to or across from a river. I then strolled down that “Regarding the tour stop that was filmed for Bordeaux Concert, Keith Jarrett explains. That’s what I can recall.

ECM Records / Daniela Yohannes Keith Jarrett, a pianist, publicly disclosed almost two years ago that he had experienced two strokes in 2018 and was probably never going to perform again. That information, which I covered in a piece for the New York Times, shocked Jarrett’s global audience and caused sadness over the end of a storied concert career as well as sympathy and worry.

Budapest Concert, a recording made at the start of Jarrett’s final European tour, provided comfort after the tragic news from his longstanding label, ECM Records. On an album titled Munich 2016, the conclusion of that tour had already been documented the year before. Additionally to those bookends, ECM is now getting ready to issue Bordeaux Concert . It’s another balancing act of consonance and dissonance from a pianist whose blank-slate solo improvisations have long been valued, and it was recorded on July 6, 2016, a few days after Budapest.

This legend has developed even more since Jarrett’s departure; a movie titled Kln 75 about the events surrounding his best-selling album The Kln Concert is currently in pre-production. The man has been quietly receiving treatment at home in a rural area of northwest New Jersey. He is a conscientious objector to online culture and a voracious reader. One of his most recent book suggestions is Burning Boy: The Life and Work of Stephen Crane by Paul Auster. He stated this week that “everyone is eager for the next technical leap.” But all I really need are two seats and someone else.

To discuss Bordeaux Concert and in particular the very moving track “Part III,” which ECM has made accessible in advance of the album’s Sept. 30 release, I called Jarrett. We were both sitting in chairs, if not physically present, and Jarrett spoke about the recording as well as his altered (and evolving) connection with the piano. Here is a lightly edited version of what we said.

Nathan Chinen Our last conversation took place in September of 2020. Right now, how do you feel?

Richard Jarrett I am doing well. Right now, I’m working from my front porch, which I now refer to as my office. We also have a stream. Everything is here: plants, flowers, butterflies, birds, etc. Yes, you were here, I see.

The area is lovely in the summer. That is very nice-sounding. How has the recovery gone? Have you been undergoing physical treatment frequently?

Although I’m not sure if it qualifies as treatment, I have been utilizing my legs more. likewise using a cane or not using one depending on the situation. So today I took a stroll down our private road to the beach that is next to the road and has a lake. Regarding recovery, I mean, I’m not certain. My left hand is not at all like my left hand, and neither is my right hand.

Well, I am aware that these issues proceed slowly.

The only similarity I can draw between this and is my experience with CFS back in the late 1990s. And I often took a Christian Scientist approach to it. My grandma, my father, and my mother all shared that.

How would you distinguish the two situations when you say you compare this to chronic fatigue syndrome?

That was the simple notion that I shouldn’t play the piano if I look at it. I should simply examine it. In contrast to what I currently possess, a right hand that I strive to pretend is functional. The level of weariness differs. For that, I saw a good doctor.

Good. I’ve considered phoning you a few times to see how you’re doing, but I quickly came up with a good reason: Bordeaux Concert is soon to be released by ECM. How many times have you played the recording in advance of its release?

Before now, I didn’t pay much attention to it. However, I did listen to it a number of times along with the other concerts from that tour, Rome and Vienna, which I did not release.

The concert that followed Budapest was this one. Our previous conversation included a lot of discussion regarding the Budapest show. Do you think the two are musically interacting with one another in some way?

I’d have to hear both of them again, I suppose. I believe I’m constantly conversing with something other than the role I recently played. That is what improvisation is all about.

Right. What about Bordeaux on the trip do you recall?

Not much, simply my hotel room, which was not satisfactory. The food was likewise in a way unsatisfying. I don’t want to tell the residents of Bordeaux this. Bordeux-esians? What do you call a Bordeaux native? Bordeaux-ics. No. {Laughs.} Anyway, I seem to recall that there was a river nearby or across the street from the hotel. And I took that path. That’s what I can recall. Because I walked everywhere I went every day. I’m hoping you’re thinking of Bordeaux. I’m not entirely sure.

On September 30, Keith Jarrett’s Bordeaux Concert, which was captured on video at Bordeaux’s Auditorium de l’Opra National on July 6, 2016, will be released.

Thanks to ECM Records That disappointing supper is still on my mind. Serving an artist a subpar dinner in Bordeaux seems to be a national offense in France.

Ahh. Even now, I’m not sure if I accurately described my experiences. One thing I recall about two-stroke engines is that they are two-cycle engines rather than three-cycle engines.

That makes sense, yes.
The only thing I can recall is how elegant the audience was, so I suppose the hall was in good condition.
When was the last time you heard the recording?

It happened a while back. My wife is currently abroad in Japan, therefore I don’t even have somebody who can operate my stereo system. I also don’t typically compare them side by side. When I want to hear myself play alone, I simply take my time and listen to them.

With the announcement of this album, one movement will be made available. It’s “Part III,” so it’s early in the concert, of course. But the fact that the first two pieces are so atonal and seeking really gets to me.

Then comes “Part III,” which is just breathtakingly pastoral.
By the way, I heard it today.
I would kindly appreciate hearing what you think of this piece.

All I could think was, “Whoever played it did the right thing.” I listen in that manner. I don’t give myself credit for accomplishments when I tell myself that. I am successful at not being prepared. That melody doesn’t fit the mold of a song one could write if they were the one writing it. In other words, it simply conforms to its own self, which is what I desire for my products.

And it’s lovely.
Without a doubt, it is lovely. It’s a ballad with a progression that is somewhat hymn-like but yet unexpected because to your chord voicings.

At least two things are happening at once. It’s a melody that I could have written differently had I been sitting down, but that’s not who I am. I like to improvise.


If I play a specific voicing when improvising, it ought to point me in the direction of the possibilities. Not the rumors I’ve heard for years about that, but the options available at the time.

Definitely. Now, this always comes up anytime you play with any gospel tonality, but The Kln Concert has such a sizable audience. When they hear this piece, I imagine that some people will draw that conclusion.

That would be like to someone declaring, “I want to compose some well-known music. Therefore, I want them to hear this particular section.” It’s a comprehensive procedure for me. And even then, only a portion of it. I mean, it ties into whatever I just finished.

The contrast between that bristling atonality and this sudden beauty, when you consider how the first two pieces lead you to this, is striking.
Wouldn’t you just take your time if you were driving a car and got into an accident in a beautiful location?
Ha, definitely.

I was once asked: “Am I going to hear you play those nonexistent chords?” I believe this question applies to the early sections. I responded with a yes, but it might have been before a show. Certain things are present during a concert. Harmony, pure harmony, for instance, was nonexistent when I played atonally. Let’s call it the accident since it is the case. I then found myself in a pleasant environment. I replied, “Ah, come on, give me more,” as opposed to, “Oh, no, I shouldn’t do this because I did the atonal thing.”

Do you think it’s challenging to take a moment like this and remove it from its context? Or is it acceptable because it already exists and is accessible to listeners in any way?

However, with this, I would say that if I were a listener and it suddenly came on the radio, I would say, “I want to hear whatever that is.” I mean, normally, I feel the first way. The atonal thing might not seem the same to someone who doesn’t follow me through all of my struggles, if you want to call them that, as I did when I played it.

It lasts for four minutes. I believe it has a beginning, middle, and end and could very well be heard on the radio as a stand-alone composition.

Do you have any other opinions on the bigger concert? More of those “nonexistent chords” can be found there, along with other incredibly melodic compositions.

When I listen to this tiny portion, I can hear the entire thing. I therefore have nothing to say. Except that I believe I recall the clusters from some of the other sections. not recalling a lot of specifics. I merely recall the fundamental emotion.

The additional performances on this tour were mentioned. Bordeaux was followed by Vienna, Rome, and Munich, which ECM did issue. Do you anticipate that Rome and Vienna will eventually be made available?

Yes, I would like it to be. It’s not necessary to reveal that I had some issues with the Vienna audience.
What sort of problems?

Oh, that’s just audience noise. “Isn’t this supposed to be the core of the European classical tradition?” I questioned them. I simply whined, I don’t know. The remainder of the concert was then played by me.

Whatever you said, it seems to have been effective.
It did. A good concert was given.

THE AUDIENCE CONNECTION OF KEITH JARRETT Budapest and Munich are notable concert recordings, nevertheless. I’m only now starting to adjust to this one, but it already seems to be coming from the same spot.

Well, they weren’t really upsetting me because the audience was nice.
Have you been seated at the piano while you discuss your right hand now?

Yes, I take a seat at the piano. I spent every day there for the past couple of days. My right hand doesn’t give me anything in return, though.

What games do you typically play? Do you use improvisation?
Absolutely. I sing or something, I guess. without a left chordal hand.
Any of the songs you’ve been playing come to mind?
Oh, just bebop things and standards, nothing else.
That’s fantastic to hear, I must say. Understanding your relationship to the standards, notwithstanding some restrictions.

My little finger has to play the melody, so that’s the only restriction I have with my right hand. The opposite is true while using both hands. The remainder of my hand is used to simulate playing the chord.

As a result, you’re using only your right hand to play the melody and chords.
It’s not chording, in my opinion. I would describe it as selecting a few potential notes.
Well, I’m sure you’re coming up with answers.
I am not powerful enough. I don’t have the strength in my right hand.
However, it appears that you are regaining that strength.
I’m not sure if I agree with it.

Whatever the circumstances, I’m delighted you’re playing. And I want to express my support. I’ve spoken with a lot of musicians and listeners who all express the same sentiment in one way or another, namely that they wish you luck in finding the piano. They also wish you luck. I merely wanted to mention that.

I appreciate it. I greatly appreciate it.