Keith Jarrett piano
Recorded May 28, 1981 in Festspielhaus Bregenz (Austria) and June 2, 1981 in Herkulessaal München (Germany)
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Concerts is something of a forgotten star in the galaxy of Keith Jarrett’s live solo improvisations. Sadly, one gets only a third of the nearly two-and-a-half-hour experience on the CD reissue, making it one of his more elusive sets to track down in its original form. And form is truly what this recording is all about, for its spins, seemingly from nothing, a fibrous rope of sound. Of the titular concerts, two are represented here. The first took place in Bregenz on 28 May 1981, the second in Munich on June 2 of the same year. And while both are markedly different, their kinship is undeniable.
Bregenz is the meatier of the two, and comes into being, as Jarrett’s improvisations so often do, as if midstream, a reverie masked only by the circadian rhythms of human life. A quiet and reverential tone pervades its initial stirrings, which sometimes run off into the sky like meteors in reverse. One gets the feeling as Jarrett lays into some jazzier motives that he is neither floating nor falling but rather remaining in softest paralysis. Jarrett intensifies the urgency, stomping his feet to a drum only he can hear. Within each solemn depression of a key and spirited cluster alike, there is constant stillness. Like fingers uncurling, his music melts through tension and ego. Shostakovich-like flourishes provide an ecstatic transition into Part II, where the complex machinery of his instrument opens that of his performing body. He is a reflection of the interior, blending a string of meditative rolls that hum their way along the edges of unforeseeable futures. We are stilled with bated breath before applause breaks the spell. “Untitled” is terse and brightly syncopated, again trail-marked by Jarrett’s stomping and vocal paroxysms. These get a deservedly strong reaction out of the crowd before Jarrett ends on a soulful note with the anthemic “Heartland.”
In Munich we find ourselves swaddled in a more porous sound. Part I is likewise born to humble beginnings. Individual droplets spread into sheets of rain, in which one tastes a bittersweet concoction of trial and transcendence. Energies slide into Gurdjieff-like passages, Jarrett grunting with intense joy between pauses, where breathes the creative energy that sustains his brilliance long into the enigmatic Part II. In a delicate swing, Jarrett mortars fractured arcs of time with his uncontainable expectorations, every note emoting the binding power of a keystone. He breaks the stillness with stamps of his feet, easing into a liquid ostinato. Gently at first, then growing more insistent, Jarrett gilds his frame with increasingly frenzied ornamentation. In its center are the gospel sounds of Part III. Threaded by Jarrett’s singing on and off the keys, these bustle with a deep commitment to pastoral resolution, evoking the majestic patchwork of clouds as well as that of the land below them. This quiet anthem blends into rich ascending phrases and chord clusters, taking pleasure in the therapy of an unobstructed view. Jarrett manages to describe it to us as if we were blind. The staggering little staircase of Part IV burrows deeper into our retinas, opening into a full-blown tower of sound before jumping off into the sparkling firmament. Abstract touches inside the piano break a monochromatic spell and spill us into the colorful world of “Mon Cœur Est Rouge,” in which Jarrett achieves perfect balance, making it one of the most astonishing solo pieces he has ever recorded. Running with the abandon of a child yet honed by experience, it beams like a laser into a reprise of “Heartland.” It is the perfect title for Jarrett’s emotional geographies, inspired by the terrain of love and openness that sustains them.
What is so compelling about this music is that, no matter how epically these improvisations tell their tells, they never seem more than a fleck of dew on the landscape that is Keith Jarrett. But in the end, what stands out most in these technical flourishes are carefully rendered single notes. Whether finger-pedaled or hanging in space like a gong, each of these mitochondrial curls of sound recedes into an unseen life. As one anonymous online reviewer so poignantly puts it: “Others can tell you what a genius Jarrett is, how innovative the music is, how technically brilliant it is. You don’t need to know this; you don’t even need to know that it’s Keith Jarrett. This is music to live by, to lose by, to love by, to have your children by…there isn’t anything better in this world.”