An Introduction To Keith Jarrett

I’ve written before about Keith Jarrett.

A piano prodigy, he started out as Miles Davis’ pianist, reportedly because he disliked Davis’ music and wanted to make it better.

He has a prolific catalogue, more far-reaching than I can really grasp.

Much of it to me sounds discordant, and often frustrating or annoying.

But sometimes, when he slows down and softens up, he makes music that is as good as any I’ve heard.

More amazing is that it’s almost entirely improvised. It’s being created once, and never again. From one minute to the next, Jarrett is simply following what he’s hearing in his own mind.

After a years-long obsession with The Koln Concert, I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to pick apart his discography for similar gems. I’ve been reading though jazz forums and Amazon reviews and then listening through as much as I can.

It’s a process I’m just beginning, but because his music is so profound to me, I want to share what I’ve learned so far. What follows is my introduction to the best of Keith Jarrett. Or, at least, the most accessible 0f his work.

Koln Concert

The best-selling solo album in jazz history. Own it.

Vienna Concert

Vienna Part I‘ is the closest I’ve found to the Koln Concert. Jarrett described it as follows:

“I have courted the fire for a very long time, and many sparks have flown in the past, but the music on this recording speaks, finally, the language of the flame itself.”

La Scala

‘La Scala 1′ is sparse, and slower moving, but through almost 45 minutes it’s quite breathtaking.

Paris Concert

‘October 17, 1988′ starts out heavenly, but from the 10th minute you feel like you’re listening to someone’s life being torn apart. At the opposite end of the spectrum, ’The Wind‘ and ‘Blues‘, see Jarrett at his most accessible.

Keith Jarrett: Solo Concerts Bremen/Lausanne

I’ve only listened so far to ‘Solo Concerts Bremen Part 1‘. In my brother’s words:

“I just listened to it a 4th time through. I think I’m starting to get it.”

I’ve listened through maybe 20 times in these last few weeks and am starting to see pieces in it. From 13.00 it moves into the realm of epic.

Paris/London – Testament (Live)

It’s only 7 minutes, but ‘Part VII – Salle Pleyel, Paris (Live)‘ is the nicest song here.

The Carnegie Hall Concert

Pt. 3‘ is beautiful.

Sun Bear Concerts

The Sun Bear Concerts is a 6-disc, sprawling epic. The gem for me so far is ‘Tokyo Encore‘, which Nicolas Jaar’s Essential Mix introduced me to.

If you know of more Jarrett gold, please share it with me in the comments.

Originally published at on October 28, 2012.