Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
mjzee

Keith Jarrett: A One-of-a-Kind Artist Prepares for His Solo

143 posts in this topic

...where he slips back into the Charles Lloyd (and geez, what a terror those two must've been together...) trap of playing like he wants to convince everybody, probably including himself, that He Is Seeing The Wonder Of The World For The First Time, And DAMN, Don't It Make Him Tremble Like A Baby In Awestruck Wonder - Oh What A Rare Sensitive Human Being It Is Who Can Channel Such Innocent Uncorrupted Beauty Into Our Lives!

When Coltrane did that from at least 'A Love Supreme' onwards he was praised to the skies...or even the heavens! In fact he spawned a whole industry of god-bothering* music and critical word-spinning of which Jarrett seems to be a part. I find I can switch off from all the 'plumbing the depths of one's soul' stuff in Coltrane; just as easy to do it in Jarrett. Best not to read the liner notes or any associated publicity, though.

*acknowledgement to Cook and Morton for that term used in relation to 'Live in Japan', I think.

Ok, I'll stipulate up fron that ultimately this is all subjective, but there are two bug, huge, even irreconcilable differences between Trane & Jarrett. First, with Trane the whole "God" thing was always framed in terms of what was being sought, "The Quest", if you will, With Jarrett (when he goes there, which again, is far from always). it always seems to be framed in terms of what has been found. The focus is not on The Quest, but The Questor. And yeah, ok, things can get out of hand either way, but whereas Trane seemed to have a genuine humility about him in the face of The Quest, Jarrett would appear to be quite the opposite. Which again, yeah, ok, so what, but I get the feeling that if Trane were cleaning up his house and found a beer can, he'd just throw it away, whereas Jarrett would probably get all wound up about it thirteen different ways, write a song about it, and let the whole world know he had been affected by finding this beer can, and what a tragedy it is that we can't understand how special he is for having been so touched.

Second, you can take away all the extra-musical trapping of almost any Trane performance and you'd still be left with some deeply powerful music that pushes all sorts of boundaries. The titles of Interstellar Space might be all "cosmic", but the music on there is also about a lifetime spent confronting the saxophone and challenging it's limitations, as well as creating new forms of organizational structure. So if you're the type of person for whom "Mars" has little significance nesides being the name of a candy bar, you can still get your head blown off by the music therin. Whereas with Jarrett, when he goes off into that moaning zone and the accompanying music is that vague Paul-Bley-Sodomizes-Bill-Evans-While-Ornette-Gives-Instructions-And Merv-Griffin-Shouts-Approval nebulosity that he gets into at his worst (and again, by no means does he always go there, far from it, but he does go there often enough to have developed a "reputation" that is not without merit), then you either buy into the notion that This Is An Artist In the Throes Of Creative Rapture or else you just say, Jeez, Keith, uh...get over it, will ya'? Not a whole lot to be had in between.

Again, this is all subjective, but it is perhaps revealing that scores of musicians of innumerable "spiritual" bents have picked Trane's bones dry in the service of musics of equally innumerable "spiritual" bents. OTOH, if you find a player who overtly cops to a strong Jarrett influence, almost always you're going to find some "extra-musical" agenda going on too, at least in my experience, and a lot of it is going to be about that person's ego, which will almost inevitably be a little more fragile than one would like, if you know what I mean. The whole "wounded child" thing will come into play at some point (and again, look at Charles Llyd and imagine him and Keith on a plane ride over hell exchanging personal grievances and try not to imagine everybody in listening range wishing like hell that they had a .45....)

Jarrett is in no way the Defining Cultural Icon that Trane is, and I have absolutely no qualms about saying that that is as it should be for the type of culture in which I enjoy living. But I also have no qualms about saying that both men are/were great musicians who have made their share of truly great music. The dividing line for me, though, is that even Trane's most "esoteric" music has an adult "psychology" to it. But Keith's music comes loaded with a lot of psychological baggage that most adults have dealt with (or at least learned to control) a long time ago. What that means to me is that when he succeeds in transcending it, hey, it's something I do want to hear. But when he doesn't, hey, get me outta there. In a hurry.

Totally subjective, sure. But as such, that's my feelings about all that.

Edited by JSngry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Totally subjective, sure. But as such, that's my feelings about all that.

Subjective indeed. I jettison the 'spiritual' stuff from both of them equally when listening.

I wouldn't question Coltrane's much greater importance for a moment - but I think that position is based on musical and historical grounds.

Who was/is the most spiritually 'honest' or 'adult'....well, I think that's mainly projection from the listener. From my (very partisan) viewpoint it seems equally daft. But it doesn't stop me enjoying the music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For those who may have formed the impression that I live for the opportunity to trash Keith Jarrett, I should like to report that this very evening I downloaded Fort Yawuh and Treasure Island from iTunes.

Up over and out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Totally subjective, sure. But as such, that's my feelings about all that.

I wouldn't question Coltrane's much greater importance for a moment - but I think that position is based on musical and historical grounds.

My point exactly! There's a "level" in Coltrane's work that is not present in Jarrett's. Which is not to say that Jarrett does not attain very high levels, just that Coltrane was, well, you know, "one of those people" who just do more than that, musically and historically. The "spiritual" angle might have been what drove it, but it got there and stayed there quite on it's own. With Jarrett, the whole "mystical" angle seems to not just drive the creation of the music, but also to define it when it succeeds as well as when it fails.

That's really not fair, becuase one thing that Jarrett can do exceptionally well is phrase a melody with sublimity like very few others. And of course, yeah, there's skill, craft, work in that. But the differnce between him and Trane in that regardis that Trane stipualted to the work in advance. His work/practice ethic was legendary even in his lifetime. Jarrett certainly works quite hard at his craft, but he seems to want to deny that part of it and instead focus on the "magic".

Well, good for him, but anybody who knows how music gats made knows that magic is only a part of the equation, often not even the most important part. But to "sell" that as reality seems tome to be more about "neediness" of ego than anything else. There is an audience, obviously, and good for them, but me, I want to hear a cat play, not... be a drama queen, not unless that's a byproduct of the playing. When it becomes the essence of the playing, as it sometimes does with Jarrett, that's when I leave.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't mind seeing a discussion of Jarrett's classical influences. I'm not real clear on who they are. :ph34r:

Yes, that would be interesting.

I recall reading one of Gary Giddins collections of reviews where he got terribly upset about the Romantic-era influences on Jarrett. Always struck me as strange that he could be castigated for having Romantic influences; if he'd been influenced by Webern or Boulez he'd have got the thumbs up. Note to musicians - make sure you choose your influences from the approved list.

:lol:

Seriously...maybe he'd blow me away if he had those kind of influences....

Perhaps. But if he'd had those influences he'd be of little interest to the mass of listeners who have gained pleasure from his music over the years. There are other pianists with such influences who can satisfy the more 'discriminating' listener.

I know that, of course. I'm still trying to find out why people think he's so wonderful. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Totally subjective, sure. But as such, that's my feelings about all that.

I wouldn't question Coltrane's much greater importance for a moment - but I think that position is based on musical and historical grounds.

My point exactly! There's a "level" in Coltrane's work that is not present in Jarrett's.

Agree totally...though based on instinct rather than knowledge. I'm not equpped to musically analyse either. I can only react as a listener.

I want to hear a cat play, not... be a drama queen, not unless that's a byproduct of the playing. When it becomes the essence of the playing, as it sometimes does with Jarrett, that's when I leave.

Well, I suppose you get an element of that with the vocalising on records; but otherwise...apart from a somewhat sanctimonious atmosphere at times...you're spared it without any visuals (I'm not a DVD buyer - even if I was I don't think I could cope with a Jarrett DVD).

I do know what you mean - Over the years I've come to prefer Paul Bley's sparer approach (I mention him, simply because he also does those extended solo pieces quite regularly). And someone like John Taylor might come from the same 'romantic' end of the jazz spectrum but you never feel you are in church.

Edited by Bev Stapleton

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know that, of course. I'm still trying to find out why people think he's so wonderful. :lol:

Because he has a melodicism that appeals to a wider audience? Because his harmonic language is familiar to a wide audience where more spartan pianists give little for the new or casual listener to hang onto? Because he was an entry point to jazz for so many and is still held in great affection?

Plus a large dollop of marketing which has raised him to a status and visibility above other equally enjoyable pianists.

Remember, most listeners do not listen to music with slide rule and graph paper in hand. They react to direct emotion couched in a familiar language. Jarrett speaks that language and is not afraid to emote. This is, of course, a reason why many more seasoned listeners don't care for him. They are often suspicious of emotion displayed without irony, rich 19thC harmony, melodies that are obviously pretty.

Which is fine - it stops being fine when they slag him off for not fitting with their particular set of rules. Jarrett may be setting out to pander to popularity; but he may equally be quite deliberately aiming to communicate with a relatively broad (in jazz terms at least) audience.

Edited by Bev Stapleton

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember, most listeners do not listen to music with slide rule and graph paper in hand. They react to direct emotion couched in a familiar language. Jarrett speaks that language and is not afraid to emote. This is, of course, a reason why many more seasoned listeners don't care for him. They are often suspicious of emotion displayed without irony, rich 19thC harmony, melodies that are obviously pretty.

I don't.

I'll get around to listening to Jarrett closer eventually, maybe after my Debussy listening binge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember, most listeners do not listen to music with slide rule and graph paper in hand. They react to direct emotion couched in a familiar language. Jarrett speaks that language and is not afraid to emote. This is, of course, a reason why many more seasoned listeners don't care for him. They are often suspicious of emotion displayed without irony, rich 19thC harmony, melodies that are obviously pretty.

I don't.

Not saying you do. But I find that more committed listeners - especially those who are musicians or who have a technical musical knowledge - can lose sight (!) of how music sounds to an ordinary listener. And by far the majority of listeners are ordinary listeners.

I'll get around to listening to Jarrett closer eventually, maybe after my Debussy listening binge.

Not sure that's a good idea! However much I enjoy much of Jarrett's music, he has nowhere near the range of Debussy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember, most listeners do not listen to music with slide rule and graph paper in hand. They react to direct emotion couched in a familiar language. Jarrett speaks that language and is not afraid to emote. This is, of course, a reason why many more seasoned listeners don't care for him. They are often suspicious of emotion displayed without irony, rich 19thC harmony, melodies that are obviously pretty.

I don't.

Not saying you do. But I find that more committed listeners - especially those who are musicians or who have a technical musical knowledge - can lose sight (!) of how music sounds to an ordinary listener. And by far the majority of listeners are ordinary listeners.

I tend to forget that my listening habits are not ordinary.

I'll get around to listening to Jarrett closer eventually, maybe after my Debussy listening binge.

Not sure that's a good idea! However much I enjoy much of Jarrett's music, he has nowhere near the range of Debussy.

I've been supplementing this with doses of Bach and Handel the last few days. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...that vague Paul-Bley-Sodomizes-Bill-Evans-While-Ornette-Gives-Instructions-And Merv-Griffin-Shouts-Approval nebulosity...

The man is on a roll.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I tend to forget that my listening habits are not ordinary.

By 'ordinary' listener I just mean the person whose listens without being a musician or otherwise professionally involved in music (writer, producer, administrator, record label owner etc).

Though in one respect most contributors to a site like this are not going to be 'ordinary' given the sheer volume of music we listen to/purchase. Some draw their sense of identity with the professionals; others with the wider listening public.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I tend to forget that my listening habits are not ordinary.

By 'ordinary' listener I just mean the person whose listens without being a musician or otherwise professionally involved in music (writer, producer, administrator, record label owner etc).

Though in one respect most contributors to a site like this are not going to be 'ordinary' given the sheer volume of music we listen to/purchase. Some draw their sense of identity with the professionals; others with the wider listening public.

Yeah - whatever.

Now that we've established that my listening habits are extraordinary, I should be treated accordingly. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Next up...does Keith Jarrett swing?

dB

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

back to the subject that was brought up above Keith and groove, the groove that the trio gets into on the outro of "Solar" on the "Live at Open Theater East" DVD (reissued by ECM as disc 1 of "Live in Japan '93/96") is unreal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also re swing, check out:

New Dance (from Nude Ants)

What Is This Thing Called Love (from Whisper Not)

Autumn Leaves - Up For It (from Up For It)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Next up...does Keith Jarrett swing?

dB

How about 'Does Keith Jarrett swing 'hard' enough to spiritually connect with the blues?"

Awesome!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I disagree with Jim re: Jarrett. I hear a lot of Jarrett's expressiveness as rhapsody, and I enjoy the shifting planes of composed and invented I hear in the solo material.

That trio. . .it can swing, it can roll in rubato, it can careen along almost chaotically, and it can produce a triumvirate version of that rhapsody. These are masters at working together, working together.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I disagree with Jim re: Jarrett. I hear a lot of Jarrett's expressiveness as rhapsody, and I enjoy the shifting planes of composed and invented I hear in the solo material.

That trio. . .it can swing, it can roll in rubato, it can careen along almost chaotically, and it can produce a triumvirate version of that rhapsody. These are masters at working together, working together.

I agree, though it took me awhile to really get how brilliant that trio is, sure Jarrett is great but last year as I got really into Changeless and My Foolish Heart I found myself having a "I get it moment" and it was pretty profound.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I disagree with Jim re: Jarrett. I hear a lot of Jarrett's expressiveness as rhapsody, and I enjoy the shifting planes of composed and invented I hear in the solo material.

That trio. . .it can swing, it can roll in rubato, it can careen along almost chaotically, and it can produce a triumvirate version of that rhapsody. These are masters at working together, working together.

I'd not disagree with any of that, Lon. Where we might have a difference of opinion is the frequency with which it happens "naturally" as opposed to "forced".

Notice I did not say "contrived", because I do not believe that Jarrett is in any way cheap about or with his music. But I do think that he has a history of letting process and outcome become one and the same thing, and that's something that kinda bothers me personally.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I disagree with Jim re: Jarrett. I hear a lot of Jarrett's expressiveness as rhapsody, and I enjoy the shifting planes of composed and invented I hear in the solo material.

That trio. . .it can swing, it can roll in rubato, it can careen along almost chaotically, and it can produce a triumvirate version of that rhapsody. These are masters at working together, working together.

I agree with Lon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very good posts by Jim and Lon...and I find myself falling somewhere in the middle between these two viewpoints.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...I get the feeling that if Trane were cleaning up his house and found a beer can, he'd just throw it away, whereas Jarrett would probably get all wound up about it thirteen different ways, write a song about it, and let the whole world know he had been affected by finding this beer can, and what a tragedy it is that we can't understand how special he is for having been so touched.

This is sooo completely the way I feel about him...and it is surely only one of the many reasons that I love Brother Jim! :tup

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, don't get me wrong, I do dig Jarrett, have many of his recordings, and do consider him an "important" musician.

It's just that his work is not without what I would consider "baggage", and that baggage can sometimes really, really rub me the wrong way. But when it's not there, hey, I can go there right along with him, and quite gladly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I disagree with Jim re: Jarrett. I hear a lot of Jarrett's expressiveness as rhapsody, and I enjoy the shifting planes of composed and invented I hear in the solo material.

That trio. . .it can swing, it can roll in rubato, it can careen along almost chaotically, and it can produce a triumvirate version of that rhapsody. These are masters at working together, working together.

I'd not disagree with any of that, Lon. Where we might have a difference of opinion is the frequency with which it happens "naturally" as opposed to "forced".

Notice I did not say "contrived", because I do not believe that Jarrett is in any way cheap about or with his music. But I do think that he has a history of letting process and outcome become one and the same thing, and that's something that kinda bothers me personally.

Well I just don't get this from him so I guess it must not bother me, personally or impersonally.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.