Keith Jarrett: La Fenice (ECM 2601)

2601|02 X

Keith Jarrett
La Fenice

Keith Jarrett piano
Recorded live in concert July 19, 2006 at Gran Teatro La Fenice, Venice
Producer: Keith Jarrett
Engineer: Martin Pearson
Mastering: Christoph Stickel and Manfred Eicher at MSM Studio, München
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher
Release date: October 19, 2018

In his 2014 book, Listen to Keith Jarrett! (available only in Japanese as: キース・ジャレットを聴け!), author Yasuki Nakayama doesn’t see the pianist as a “jazz” musician per se, but as one more closely aligned with the tradition of Bob Dylan. Not merely because he played Dylan on his early albums (“My Back Pages” and “Lay Lady Lay”), but because there’s a folk-rock groove common to both. This double-disc gem from the Jarrett solo archives, documenting a concert given on 19 July 2006 at Venice’s Gran Teatro, speaks truth to that spirit, casting a backward glance to some formative ECM ventures and beyond.

Parts I and II drop us into the flow of Jarrett’s unstoppable creativity, and it’s all we can do to achieve flotation in the wake of his improvisational vessel. That said, he isn’t out to drown us with his prowess or leave us dogpaddling for meaning. Rather, the purpose of his art is as naked as it is spontaneous. Every note conveys its inevitability: an answer to a question we never needed to ask in the first place. His frames have porous edges, each a sentient microbiome hungering for communication.

Where Part III brings us into an urgent yet bluesy solar system, slowing from a run to a crawl until a life has been fulfilled by its own telling, Part IV yields ecliptic lyricism. Jarrett cuts away each motif one umbilical cord at a time so that its own personality traits can emerge. Thus, he takes lessons of love and turns them into opportunities for self-assessment, growth, and milestones. Part V is a boppish affair with plenty of twists and turns to satisfy the eager listener. Its wondrous energy is superseded only by Part VIII. With feet stomping and voice churning, Jarrett transforms the piano into metaphysical substance, whereby the path to harmony must be paved with commitment.

The performance is consummated by a few inspired pieces. “The Sun Whose Rays,” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, acts as a fulcrum between the cinematic drama of Part VI and the family photograph developing in the solution of VII. It fits seamlessly into its surroundings, a drop of the terrestrial in a realm otherwise all its own. “My Wild Irish Rose” receives a heartfelt treatment. Poised yet dramatic, Jarrett is unafraid to unravel it with all its might. “Stella by Starlight” is a standard of a different stripe. Just in the way Jarrett plays it, one can feel the decades spent with his trio bubbling up from a thick broth of ideas. Lastly, we have “Blossom,” a deep nod to his 1974 classic Belonging. The title is more than appropriate, for his music likewise releases pollen to populate the world with its songs.

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