Keith Jarrett Trio: Standards I/II – Tokyo (ECM 5502/03)

Standards Tokyo

Keith Jarrett Trio
Standards I/II – Tokyo

Keith Jarrett piano
Gary Peacock bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
DVD 1
Recorded live in Tokyo, February 15, 1985 at Koseinenkin Hall
Director: Kaname Kawachi
Recorded and mixed by Toshio Yamanaka
Production coordinator: Toshinari Koinuma
Produced by Masafumi Yamamoto
Executive producer: Hisao Ebine
DVD 2
Recorded live in Tokyo, October 26, 1986 at Hitomi Memorial Hall
Director: Kaname Kawachi
Recorded and mixed by Seigen Ono
Production coordinator: Toshinari Koinuma
Produced by Masafumi Yamamoto
Executive producer: Hisao Ebine
Concerts produced by Koinuma Music

Standards I/II is an invaluable two-DVD archive of the Keith Jarrett Trio’s inaugural tours of Japan. The first, recorded at Tokyo’s Koseinenkin Hall on 15 February 1985, offers the pianist at his heartfelt best in an intro as tender as a drizzling rain. So begins a smooth version of “I Wish I Knew,” through the lens of which bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette illuminate the spectrum of this format like few others can. What distinguishes them, as made clear in this concert opener, is their consistent ability to surprise. Sure, the technical prowess required to carry off such florid versions of “If I Should Lose You” and “It’s Easy To Remember” is formidable to say the least, but how much more virtuosity there is to be savored in the ballads. The night-laden memories of “Late Lament” add softness to the set list’s emerging palette, even as they whisper in a language as crystalline as all the rest. This is a diamond in which every occlusion represents an opportunity for clarity. “Stella By Starlight” starts with Peacock and Jarrett emoting in space and time without allegiance to either, working into a 14-minute groove so sublime that it melts.

Standards 1

To be sure, the more upbeat tunes have a crispness all their own. “If I Should Lose You” finds Jarrett listening intently to his bandmates, who exchange tactile glances in anticipation of DeJohnette’s rolling play. But whether the drummer is riding the rails in “It’s Easy To Remember” or adding choice accents to a diagonal “God Bless The Child,” he leaves plenty of room for his audience to grow in kind.

Standards 2

Jarrett originals such as “Rider” and “Prism” showcase his penchant for gospel and Byzantine grooves. In these tunes the band reaches a high point of synchronicity, working a detail-oriented art into a genre all its own. Even the lighter “So Tender” retains full emotional accuracy, going all in via Peacock’s supernal melodizing. All of which leads to sixteen and a half minutes of soulful unpacking in “Delaunay’s Dilemma.” Peacock fascinates again in his soloing toward the finish line, while DeJohnette sings even as he punches his way toward bluesy victory.

Standards 4

The second Japan concert was recorded at Hitomi Memorial Hall, also in Tokyo, on 26 October 1986. This standards extravaganza is the regression to the previous concert’s progression, but loses no sense of integrity for its introversion. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” eases into things with sweeping finesse such as only Jarrett can pull off. It is followed by “With A Song In My Heart,” the meditation of which morphs into some solid invigorations. Peacock and DeJohnette share a flawless rapport, the drummer popping off that snare like a machine gun.

Standards 5

So begins an alternating pattern of valleys and peaks, which by the end leave behind an even more cohesive program than the first. We next dip down into a tune the trio plays like no one else: “When You Wish Upon A Star.” Jarrett’s rendering makes even the most familiar blossom anew with emotional honesty. The mastery on display in this quintessential example is as pliant as Peacock’s strings, and carries over into the interlocking tempi of “All Of You.” For this, the bassist leaps forward with the first of two solos, moving from robust to filigreed without loss of syncopation.

Standards 6

The bassist turns out to be the sun of this solar system, lathering a mysterious yet lucid “Georgia On My Mind” and a duly nostalgic “When I Fall In Love” with enough light to spare in conversation with his bandmates. DeJohnette, for his part, airbrushes the night sky in “Blame It On My Youth” and lets the groove be known behind “Love Letters.” And in tandem with Jarrett, he feeds magic into the masterstroke of “You And The Night And The Music.” Unforgettable.

Standards 7

Each of the three encores—“On Green Dolphin Street,” “Woody ’n You,” and “Young And Foolish”—is a virtuosic gem set to twinkling and reminds us that Jarrett and his associates came this far only by selecting their divergences lovingly.

Prashant Bhargava & Vijay Iyer: Radhe Radhe – Rites of Holi (ECM 5507)

Radhe Radhe

Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi

Vijay Iyer composer
Prashant Bhargava film director, editor
Anna George actor
Craig Marsden director of photography
International Contemporary Ensemble
Eric LambLaura Jordan Cocks: flute, alto flute, piccolo
Joshua Rubin: clarinet, bass clarinet
Rebekah Heller: basoon, contrabasoon
Gareth FlowersAmir Elsaffar: trumpet
Jennifer Curtis: violin
Kyle Armbrust: viola
Kivie Cahn-Lipman: cello
Cory Smythe: piano
Ross Karre: percussion
Tyshawn Sorey: percussion, drum set
Adam Sliwinski: conductor
Vijay Iyer: piano, electronics
Soundtrack produced by Vijay Iyer and Manfred Eicher.
Recorded live at Memorial Hall, UNC Chapel Hill, March 26, 2013
Engineer: Frank Martin/Media Production Associates
Live concert sound engineer: Levy Lorenzo
Additional recording at The Bunker Studio, April 20, 2014
Engineer: John Davis
Mixed at Avatar Studios, NYC by James Farber, Vijay Iyer, and Manfred Eicher
Assistant: Aki Nishimura
Additional engineering, editing, and consultation: Liberty Ellman

Bird

Ron Fricke’s 1992 classic Baraka endures as one of the most consummate examples of non-narrative cinema. Its montage of images from around the world was even more eclectic than the soundtrack that went along with it. But despite the many ceremonies, creative arts, and labors that Fricke documented—including death pyres and ritual baths in the river Ganges—he never captured the Hindu religious festival known as Holi. Had he done so, it might have looked something like Radhe Radhe.

Opening Shot

Filmmaker Prashant Bhargava’s ode to this so-called “festival of colors” traces the eight-day celebration back to Mathura, mythic birthplace of the supreme deity Krishna and his lover (in the strongest sense) Radha. Hence the film’s title, a term of praise and greeting often exchanged in the streets of Mathura, where she is believed to be a gateway to true understanding of Krishna. Her power is a central theme, an explosion of devotion far more vivid than the human-made pigment sold on the streets in the weeks leading up to this cathartic event.

Given the film’s subtitle, “Rites of Holi,” and the fact that Holi is practiced in the spring may put one in mind of Igor Stravinsky. This is no coincidence. Although not a direct homage to Stravinsky, Radhe Radhe was the result of a commission for the 100th anniversary of the Russian composer’s Rite of Spring, and one of a dozen projects freshly created in its honor. It is still a ballet of sorts, not least of all for the dialogic contributions of Indian-American pianist Vijay Iyer. In a manner of speaking, he and Bhargava met halfway—the director boiling down over 30 hours of footage into a 35-minute film and the composer expanding molecular impressions into a fully integrated score—so that the finished product was a narrative duly rendered. Iyer’s task was to match Bhargava’s rhythms, taking the listener through what he calls a “series of energies.”

Crowd 3

Bhargava first gained international attention with his debut feature Patang (The Kite) in 2011. That his roots grabbed their soil in hip-hop and graffiti art should come as no surprise, for his gifts of rhythm, poetry, and color were likeminded in their urban respect. But with Radhe Radhe he went further underground, mining deeper traditions of those same creative registers. The film is, then, as much a musical as it is a visual tour de force, building like a raga to near-ecstatic heights. Indeed, before a single image graces our retinas, Iyer’s pianism sets the stage over a dark title screen. Slight dissonances therein betray something of the chaos about to unfold, but obscure enough of it so that we might experience it anew, even in multiple viewings. Along with the young musicians of the International Contemporary Ensemble, Iyer creates a mood that is beautifully unsettling, and all the more organic for it.

Face 1

The film’s first part, “Adoration,” builds its intimacies one stratum at a time. The stage is set in a misty landscape. We see only details: boatmen preparing for the days’ revelry, a bare back, a glimpse of braided hair. The streets then come to life as food vendors ready their meals and women wash their garments in the river. The soundtrack is restless, anticipatory. A cargo train passes by, as if to underscore the film’s narrative drive. More fragments: a face half-reflected in a mirror, candles burning on an altar, a gossamer veil. As crowds thicken and the dance begins, Iyer’s pianism brightens. Even the birds in the field seem to join in. Flute and brass contrast one another with purpose. Their notes flower and wither, changing focus like the lens that guides them. Strings and percussion add color streamers of their own as the iconic powder hits the air.

Crowd 2

Part 2, “Transcendence,” puts further emphasis on Bhargava’s footage of an imaginary Radha played by actress Anna George. He spins from these scenes, shot in the US and woven throughout the film, a primal and sexual interplay that signals the true emergence of spring. It’s a bold move, as the director himself is first to admit in the DVD’s “Making Of” segment, but he wanted to bring that “everyday magic, that intimacy that we share as people to the narratives of the gods.” He believes that the push and pull of Radha and Krishna exists in all of us, as it does also in the increasingly inseparable relationship between sounds and scenarios. A trumpet, for example, works its melodic overlay during a long shot of Radha’s face, implying an environment far vaster than the immediate contrivance of the studio.

Radha 2

As the cinematography becomes more contemplative, the music subdues itself in solidarity. In the same way that Bhargava seems to have eyes in many places at once and flits between them by changing cognitive channels, so too does Iyer’s complementary switching take every movement into account. A sensual flowering of street noise enters the mix, as if bleeding of its own volition, leaving us wanting to shed our inhibitions and dive into that sea of color.

Dancing 2

In May of 2015, Bhargava died at the age of 42 from cardiac arrest after a history of heart disease. But the tragedy of this death is so graciously balanced by the exuberance of his small yet vivid oeuvre that one can focus on the latter in a state of pure invigoration. In this respect, we do well to read Radhe Radhe in the spirit for which it was made. In a world where the rites of Holi have spread to unlikely corners (I witness its rainbowed aftereffects on my American university campus every year), it’s nice to know that one artist’s vision can bring us anytime to the source with just the press of a PLAY button.

Field

(See this article as it originally appeared in RootsWorld online magazine here.)

Sounds and Silence: Travels with Manfred Eicher

Sounds and Silence

If every film has a soundtrack, does it not stand to reason that every soundtrack has a film? This would seem to be the guiding question behind Sounds and Silence. In this unprecedented DVD release, documentarians Peter Guyer and Norbert Wiedmer set out to capture ECM Records as a living entity in which human labor and ingenuity are the dual heart of musical life. Although billed as a “road movie” and patterned by footage of label founder and producer Manfred Eicher in various states of transport, it is equally concerned with the non-literal paths that have led to the creation, sustenance, and influence of the German imprint and its ongoing permutations. They keyword here is “ongoing,” because Eicher and his trust have only intensified their productivity since 1969, when it all began, to the point of releasing, on average, an album per week.

It is almost inevitable that the film’s opening montage and credit sequence should be accompanied by a recording of Keith Jarrett. The pianist is one of ECM’s brightest stars, but is also committed to the power of simplicity, as demonstrated in his rendition of Georges I. Gurdjieff’s “Reading of Sacred Books.” It is an apt description of the filmmakers’ and their process, tasked as they are with interpreting an archive of such magnitude that not even a collective documentary on each album could hope to articulate it. Rather, they must choose to concentrate on specific times, places, and moods in the hope of tapping into something essential to them all. That being said, when Eicher talks of seeking the luminosity of music, which like a comet’s tail leaves behind a pure trace of its being, and philosophizes that music “has no fixed abode,” we begin to realize that such technology of capture as the camera is forever limited in its relationship to the audio realm. For while images suggest associations by their very existence, sounds thrive on the nourishment of our wildest interpretations. Consequently, this film is not so much a behind-the-scenes manifesto of artistic creation as it is a gentle visualization of ECM’s inner heart and its ripple effect across oceans.

Pärt and Eicher
(Manfred Eicher and Arvo Pärt)

Rehearsals with Estonian composer and New Series darling Arvo Pärt at St. Nicholas’ Church in Tallinn yield the documentary’s first proper footage and serve as touchstones for its narrative arc. They offer a strangely profound glimpse into the countless intangibles that go into any ECM recording, but particularly those in which the composer is present, at once presiding over and deferential to the equally intangible magic of a committed performance. Pärt is every bit the contemplative human being one might expect. He feels music with every fiber of his being, and it’s a gift to witness, if only briefly, his childlike sagacity. His face is a veritable gallery of expressions, each attuned to a change in the score and the possibility of making it grow even further toward an unattainable perfection.

Pärt
(Pärt listens intently as conductor Tõnu Kaljuste’s right hand threads the proverbial needle)

During one such scene, a most touching development occurs when, in mutual happiness, Pärt engages Eicher in a dance. This single gesture reveals something perhaps unexpected in both men: in the composer a feeling of bliss that many of us lose in the name of adulthood, in the producer a love for the simple pleasure of forces aligning in exactly the way he wants. Eicher is indeed a guide of uncompromising integrity, and his smile reveals far more about why he does what he does than the iconic and relatively frequent photos of him hunched over yet another mixing board. True dedication to one’s craft, these images suggest, requires not only a seriousness of heart but also a frivolity of spirit.

Dance
(Eicher and Pärt share a dance to the tune of the latter’s Estonian Lullaby)

Between these signposts, we encounter a train of faces and voices, many perhaps for the first time. Interviews with Pärt and his delightfully honest wife Nora, Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou, Tunisian oudist and composer Anouar Brahem, Italian multi-reedist Gianluigi Trovesi and accordionist Gianni Coscia, Argentine bandoneón master Dino Saluzzi, and Eicher himself help us better understand the inconceivable alignments of fate that sometimes must occur just to bring the right people together, much less allow them the space to create whatever they will create. The bellows of Saluzzi’s lungs, for example, prove just as eloquent as those between his fingers when he shares his history as a musician who shunned the academy in favor of raw expression. In him is revealed an educator’s heart, one that seeks to learn as much as enhance learning in others. Brahem is likewise an articulate soul possessed of a subtle wit. His sensitivity toward political matters only serves to enhance appreciation of his sonic endeavors, which in light of his worldview take on new valences of awareness and pacifism. It’s a joy to watch him alone in his home studio, building his tunes, element by element.

Trees
(Only light may part shadow)

As we navigate environmental flashes of Eicher’s travels, we follow the producer to Athens for a monumental performance of Karaindrou’s music (of which he shadows a rehearsal with saxophonist Jan Garbarek and violist Kim Kashkashian), a recording session at Studios La Buissonne in southeastern France with Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin (and the intuition needed to bring out just one muted string hit in post-production), another at Copenhagen’s Sun Studio with Marilyn Mazur, a concert featuring Brahem with pianist François Couturier and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier at the Prinzregententheater in Munich, and mixing Trovesi’s explosive reconstructions of operatic favorites in Bergamo, Italy. Other highlights include footage of said concerts, a brief sojourn to Argentina with Saluzzi and Lechner, some candid moments with the ever-animated Trovesi and his confederate Coscia, and even a peek into ECM’s Munich headquarters, where we see everyday logistics in action, including the meticulous process of selecting album covers.

Cover selection
(Reading between the covers)

In the same way that Eicher seeks to put the listener inside the music, so do the filmmakers try to put us in ECM’s world, and in that spirit we end where we began: with Pärt. Experiencing the consummation of every above-mentioned force is one of the most gratifying passages of the film. The music is the message, because the message exists to be sung.

Pärt rehearsal
(Icons before icons)

ECM’s music has always approached the level of cinema, and so it was only natural that it should be honored in moving pictures. And yet, the end result seems more like the realization of a fantasy than a picture of reality. Throughout the 87-minute duration, the filmmakers make as much as they can out of what little they have. Case in point: Saluzzi and Lechner’s Argentine sojourn. Aside from a hint of social awkwardness, the footage overlaps with another film by co-director Wiedmer (see El Encuentro, also released on an ECM-edition DVD) and is perhaps better saved for that portrait. Its inclusion here feels like recycling and not in the documentary’s best interest.

Another dividing point may be the lack of attention paid to certain other production aspects. Early on in the film, Pärt speaks sagaciously of the recording session as an organism, of which musicians, engineers, and producers are vital organs. And yet, what of those unsung engineers? While of course ECM has none under its employ (they are independent artists working for independent studios), Martin Wieland, Jan Erik Kongshaug, Stephan Schellmann, Peter Laenger, James A. Farber, and, more recently, Stefano Amerio, among others, have all been of vital importance in shaping the label’s distinctive identity. The reality, of course, is that such a film, regardless of maker, can at best only be supplementary and will be of far more interest to the ECM fan than to someone unfamiliar with the label. Nothing can replace the listener. And is that not what Eicher is, above all? Why else would we first encounter him on screen as a man alone with his thoughts, as if listening to the world?

Seated Eicher

And so, it is in the name of listening that I direct your regard to the film’s soundtrack.

ECM_2250_CD

A cover that brings to mind Iro Haarla’s Vespers situates us in a cloud-break with only a snatch of landscape below to indicate the separation of worlds. The composition is emblematic of a label that has always charted indefinable borders between civilization and emptiness, and in so doing has made music seemingly aware of its own mortality. Keith Jarrett’s “Reading of Sacred Books,” written by Georges I. Gurdjieff, asserts nothing but its own lack of assertion. It is instead an expression of transcendence, a confirmation of the energies all around and within us, by which we are able to produce this wonder called music in the first place.

If anything can be said to define ECM’s output, it is memory. Charting that which has already passed in order to open our eyes to that which has yet to come, these musicians have all primed us for the opening of newer doors. This is the spirit of the label: to take the musical moment and craft it into self. Few tracks on this compilation embody this spirit more creatively than “Modul 42” from Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin. After gaining access to the recording process in the film, it’s wonderful to encounter the music on its own terms, to look deep into its eyes and know it’s looking back at (and through) us. The sparkling middle passage ushers us into a world hitherto unknown yet undeniably familiar. Anouar Brahem’s “Sur Le Fleuve” is another slice of magic. Featuring the same trio combination of piano, accordion, and oud as recorded in the film, its marriage of instrumental signatures is nothing short of breathtaking. We can take great comfort in this music, for it is our partner.

Dino Saluzzi’s “Tango a mi padre” played as close to breathing as possible by him and Anja Lechner, speaks to another facet of that fascination with memory, which in this piece is so alive that it weeps for itself. We might, then, hear Vicente Greco’s “Ojos Negros” at the same duo’s hands with renewed sense of purpose. That these two bodies traveling through space and time have found themselves somehow joined at the soul, sharing with one another the details of their upbringing and the unknowns of their future, is a miracle. Also miraculous are two selections from Eleni Karaindrou, whose compositional fabric is spun from her “Farewell Theme,” which floats Jan Garbarek’s soulful tone across an ocean’s wave of strings, as Kim Kashkashian’s aquatic tail leaves its marks in the water, and “To Vals Tou Gamou,” in which piano, accordion, and violin dance like pens across paper. We may listen to this music either poignantly or through the lens of a joy that remains somehow clear in the mists of its origin.

The “Arpeggiata addio” by Giovanni G. Kapsberger, as heard on Rolf Lislevan’s Nuove musiche, likewise speaks of the past in the present. In it we can feel the propulsion of life experience by the power of desire. A voice carries us across the threshold of then and now, cradled in hands chapped like old parchment. Fresher inkwells spill their contents across Marilyn Mazur’s whimsical “Creature Walk,” a piece which as we know from the documentary brings a smile even to her face, and Gianluigi Trovesi’s blistering take on “Così, Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini. Although lit by a canonical match, Trovesi’s candle burns like an instrument of restless beauty in the macabre waltz funneling around him.

Arvo Pärt is also represented twice. His Für Lennart in memoriam is an undeniably dense molecule of emotional transfixion, while the postludinal Da Pacem Domine, after a reprise of Jarrett’s Gurjdieff “Reading,” carries us on its feathered back to the edges of sunset, where awaits the discovery of discovery.

How does one sum up ECM Records? Thankfully this is the purpose of neither the documentary nor its soundtrack. Rather, they exist to give us glimpses into the ever-shifting structure of the label’s skeleton. Following Manfred Eicher on these journeys, whether through eyes or ears, you might just find yourself wondering how so much external architecture could arise from music that is immaterial, only to realize that it’s the other way around.

(To hear samples of the soundtrack, click here.)

Eleni Karaindrou: Elegy of the Uprooting (ECM New Series 5506 & 1952/53)

Eleni Karaindrou
Elegy of the Uprooting

Maria Farantouri voice
Vangelis Christopoulos oboe
Socratis Sinopoulos Constantinople lyra, laouto
Maria Bildea harp
Konstantinos Raptis bayan
Sergiu Nastasa violin
Renato Ripo violoncello
Stella Gadedi flute
Nikos Guinos clarinet
Sopcratis Anthis trumpet
Spyros Kazianis bassoon
Vangelis Skouras French horn
Aris Dimitriadis mandolin
Christos Tsiamoulis ney
Panos Dimitrakopoulos kanonaki
Andreas Katsiyiannis santouri
Andreas Papas bendir, daouli
Eleni Karaindrou piano
Hellenic Radio and Television Choir
Antonis Kontogeorgiou choirmaster
Camerata Orchestra
Alexandros Myrat conductor
Recorded live March 27, 2005 at Megaron (Hall of the Friends of Music), Athens
Engineers: Nikos Espialidis, Andreas Mandopoulos, and Bobby Blazoudakis
Produced by Manfred Eicher

“What am I, if not a collector of vanished gazes?”
–Theo Angelopoulos, Ulysses’ Gaze

Elegy of the Uprooting condenses two decades of work by Eleni Karaindrou into what the Greek composer calls a “scenic cantata.” This is no mere retrospective, but a gravid musical statement in which the listener’s soul is carefully unfolded to reveal the sounds hidden within. Excerpting 13 scores for film and stage, this concert pulls out the red threads running through Karaindrou’s non-diegetic oeuvre with stunning video and audio clarity.

Of the 110 musicians seen in this live DVD—including an orchestra, chorus, and ensemble of traditional instruments—many of the soloists have been working with Karaindrou for many years, and their dedication shows. Of note are…

Vangelis Christopoulos on oboe:

Socratis Sinopoulos on the Constantinople lyra/Maria Bildea on harp:

Konstantinos Raptis on the bayan:

Vangelis Skouras on French horn:

Aris Dimitriadis on mandolin:

Panos Dimitrakopoulos on kanonaki/Christos Tsiamoulis on ney:

and the composer herself at the piano:

Much of the music will be familiar to ECM enthusiasts: Ulysses’ Gaze, The Suspended Step of the Stork, Eternity and a Day, The Weeping Meadow, and Euripedes Trojan Women feature heavily in this wide-ranging program, with the latter two in particular providing a larger thematic framework. Lesser known works such as the stunning Rosa’s Aria—from the film by Christoforos Christofis and reinterpreted here with total corporeal commitment by the legendary Maria Farantouri—should excite veteran and new listeners alike.

The staging was overseen by Manfred Eicher and is accordingly minimal. A large screen behind the musicians displays artfully arranged stills and clips from Angelopoulos’s films, as well as some computer generated imagery of swaying reeds, falling rain, and shooting flames.

It’s a joy and a privilege to see such a synergistic group of musicians banding together to share such doleful beauty, and to see the physical process of it all, the sheer assembly of talent and logistics required in putting together such a performance.

In all this rhetoric lately of carbon footprints and the detrimental impact of human activity on the physical environment, it’s easy to forget that our creativity often leaves the most “eco-friendly” impressions. Karaindrou has created for the world a statement without tangible shape, a visceral wave of melancholy into which we may project a semblance of ourselves. Like the water that figures so prominently in Angelopoulos’s films, her music ebbs and flows in spite of our foibles.

Elegy of the Uprooting is also available in this 2-CD set. I highly recommend both, for each is its own experience.

Keith Jarrett: Tokyo Solo (ECM 5501)

Keith Jarrett
Tokyo Solo

Keith Jarrett piano
Recorded October 30, 2002, Metropolitan Festival Hall, Tokyo
Directed by Kanama Kawachi

Over a career spanning nearly 70 recordings for ECM alone, Keith Jarrett has established himself as one of the world’s most inimitable and revered musicians. We marvel at his music-making, at his technical prowess and innovation, but rarely do we get to experience the physiological creativity so vital to what he does. For this concert, Jarrett’s 150th in Japan, the one and only has given us a primary source in video form, a clearer glimpse into the complexity of his craft. On the surface Jarrett is a lone pianist whose humble frame elicits some of the more towering improvisations one is ever likely to hear, and here we get to see what lies beyond that surface to the fiery core that sustains him. As he quietly takes the stage the house lights dim to circumscribe the piano, leaving Jarrett and his instrument suspended in darkness.

He blows on his hands and draws an abstract veil over our eyes and ears. What we hear is serial, boastful yet self-deprecating, and, while not entirely accessible, betrays total commitment to a challenging trajectory. Jarrett works his way through a dense cloud of notes, as if searching for the perfect one, which he finds and intones as his face contorts in mimicry of the depths plied with every repetition.

This instigates an ecstatic passage of finger pedaling, which eventually brings Jarrett to the piano’s outermost reaches. He plays a single high and low tone together before returning to the center, as if he were gently embracing every note available to him before singling out a privileged few.

We then enter the most emotional portion of the concert. Jarrett cannot help but sing along, as much in deference as we are to the sounds flowing through him. At this point we come to realize that the opening jumble was nothing more than a search for any fragment he might be able to expand into a larger narrative, and that this is the tale we are about to hear. As Jarrett begins the next section, someone claps. He stops and listens carefully before scrapping everything in favor of a new idea. What follows is an agitated catharsis that gradually beats itself into a more elegiac shape. So ends Part 1.

Part 2 is more like what we have come to expect from a Jarrett solo concert: protracted, pastoral bliss. With lips puckered and brow furrowed, Jarrett dives headfirst into a quiet maelstrom of beauty, precursor to a grinding tangent that stops as suddenly as it develops. In spite of the serious approach he manifests in his performance style, Jarrett is not without his lighter moments. He even flirts with the audience’s attentions at one point during the concert. He has just played a delicate high note to close an epic improvisation. Applause begins, but he signals silence, only to play that same note a final time. He smiles and says, “That’s it.”

From this laughter he emerges with a brilliant cascade to close. Not wanting to leave his audience without something familiar, he returns to the stage for three encores: Danny Boy, Old Man River (Jerome Kern), and Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me (Art Tatum/Count Basie)—all of them pulled off with unparalleled intuition.

Those wanting to get more out of the Keith Jarrett experience need look no further than this DVD. The camerawork and recording are simple and direct, capturing the full range of expressions and contortions at Jarret’s disposal, and the crisp sound ensures that we hear every surrender. Jarrett shows a profound respect for what he plays, be it a standard or something composed on the spot. The image of his spotlit piano is the perfect metaphor: the musical alchemist toiling over his crucibles while his admirers fall awestruck into shadow. That being said, it’s easy for us to over-romanticize Jarrett’s process, to wonder where he goes when he improvises with such fluidity. Thankfully in Tokyo Solo we no longer need to wonder, for in a performance such as this we share the same space.