Invocations/The Moth and the Flame
Keith Jarrett pipe organ, soprano saxophone, piano
Recorded November 1979 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg (The Moth and the Flame) and October 1980 at Ottobeuren Abbey (Invocations)
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Among ECM’s many mainstays, Keith Jarrett would seem to have been given the most freedom, and it is within that freedom that he excels. In this fascinating double album, a standout even in his extensive résumé, Jarrett fleshes a sparse skeleton with intimate venation. The first half consists of Invocations, a meditative dialogue between organ and soprano saxophone. The latter alone bookends this antiphonal “text” with self-effacing distance. Equal parts hope and doubt, every word both a star and the supernova that ends it, Invocations ranks among Jarrett’s most introspective works. Of the organ solos, “Mirages, Realities” is the profoundest example. Building over a steady pulse, it is more akin to Arvo Pärt’s Mein Weg hat Gipfel und Wellentäler than to anything in the Jarrett oeuvre. In its lilting phrases, one finds a backward fall into a void where only sound describes reality. On the other hand, the lofty chords and denser architectures of “Power, Resolve” and “Celebration” clearly recall Jarrett’s Spheres. The most affecting verses, however, are to be found when organ and saxophone unify, especially in “Recognition,” which stretches the listener in opposing directions, only to meet in self-realization.
After the suspensions of the program’s first half, the five-part The Moth and the Flame floats a thousand pianistic lotuses—and with no less grand a sweep. Between the heartland spirit that permeates Part II and the iron-and-air elegy that is Part V, Jarrett maps out a tessellation of emotion, not unlike the spirals of Staircase. He winds his way with mirth through every dip of flight, splitting prismatically at the center in Part III. Like a spinning top, its myriad emotions funnel into a single point, wobbling until equilibrium is achieved.
This album, as much as any other in the Jarrett landscape, shows a deep commitment to personal development. He plows these instruments like the fields of his very heart. He is that moth, drawn to a musical flame which, rather than burning him, fuels his humanity all the more.
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3 thoughts on “Keith Jarrett: Invocations/The Moth and the Flame (ECM 1201/02)”
Part V was always my favorite in “The Moth and the Flame” — I could never figure out his organ recordings but “Hymns Spheres” did inspire me to write a play
Thank you for the comment. I would love to know more about your play…
I no longer have a copy — it was a present for a friend — the main character became mesmerized by the Hymns Spheres recording and entered a trancelike state.