Happy 70th Birthday Keith Jarrett!
I briefly auditioned the “new” release of Jarrett’s live traversal of the Samuel Barber Piano Concerto from 1985. Wow! To me this is obviously now the best classical record in his discography. He’s really got enough fire and brimstone technique to deliver this neo-romantic concerto in the grand manner.
The Bartók Concerto No. 3 is good too, but not as immediately overwhelming.
Among the other Jarrett classical discs that are worth collecting include a Lou Harrison Piano Concerto that is not just an excellent performance, but also simply an important 20th-century concerto that wouldn’t exist without Jarrett’s involvement.
Many admire the Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues. KJ plays the brisk movements wonderfully but honestly I don’t appreciate that cycle so much to begin with. Arvo Pärt’s Fratres was singled out to me in conversation with Manfred Eicher as being especially valuable.
At any rate, the brilliance of the Barber brings home that Jarrett does really have a significant legacy as a classical pianist, especially in 20th Century repertoire.
Jarrett’s legacy as an improvising pianist is even more important. Right now I’m listening to Life Between the Exit Signs, his first record and a rather astonishingly advanced and committed manifesto overall.
Not everything Jarrett has tried has worked. The worst Keith is still probably Restoration Ruin, although the “recent” No End is now also worthy contender. Those aren’t really jazz albums; from his jazz discography I reject the horrible Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett (except the avant piano solo on “Fortune Smiles”) and frankly he’s not too swinging with Blakey on Buttercorn Lady either. Still, underestimate Mr. Jarrett at your peril. On YouTube, a bootleg of young KJ essaying “Liza” has to heard to be believed.