Release date: April 29, 2002
Between 2002 and 2004, and following its “Works” series in the mid 1980s, ECM Records produced twenty “Selected Recordings” compilations under the overarching title of :rarum. A fitting word (Latin for “rarity”) to designate the uniqueness of ECM’s output, scope, and vision. In addition to their archival significance and 24-bit remastering, these releases are special for being curated by the artists themselves. The first two—this one dedicated to Keith Jarrett and the next to Jan Garbarek—are double-disc lenses of insight into what these perennial figures deem important in their own creative lives. The relatively longer format allows for multiple pieces to be chosen from the same album, so that sequences within sequences are given room to breathe, grow, and invite fresh interpretations from the listener.
Jarrett’s self-regard may or may not match your own chosen path through his discography, but once immersed in his clavichord improvisations (1987’s Book Of Ways), it’s difficult to imagine a more personal way to begin. Unfolding in a style that is at once Baroque and postmodern, sounding as they do like the lute of a mute troubadour, these pieces come to us with an apparent sense of age and rustic simplicity. The recording regards these wonders in the moments of their creation—not so much traveling back in time as pulling the past forward to be with us in the present. Other unaccompanied endeavors are faithfully represented here. Worthy of note are his detailed exploration of the piano’s innards on “Munich, Part IV” (Concerts, 1982); the haunting, open-throated supernovas of his organ improvisation, “Hymn Of Remembrance” (Hymns/Spheres, 1976); and his quiet build from stillness to melodic monument in “Recitative” (Dark Intervals, 1988). The latter album is perhaps among his most overlooked masterstrokes and further yields the anthemic gem of “Americana.”
Even deeper self-examinations await in his soprano saxophone playing, artfully represented in two tracks from 1981’s Invocations/The Moth and the Flame, and in his multi-instrumental Spirits from 1986, on which he emotes through an array of winds and percussion besides. Thus reduced to five selections (numbers 16, 20, 2, 13, and 25, for those keeping score), the full brunt of that divisive album’s 26 is made more palatable and clarifies just how much terrain he could cover when left to his own devices.
With the exception of the solo concerts, Jarrett’s finest pianism was always to be found with two legendary bands. The first was his so-called European Quartet with saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Palle Danielsson, and drummer Jon Christensen, of whose phenomenal run is offered a broad cross-section. From the unabashed confidence of “’Long As You Know You’re Living Yours” (Belonging, 1974) and the lyrical integrations of “My Song” (from the 1978 album of the same name) all the way to the sharp-edged blues of “Late Night Willie” (Personal Mountains, 1989), the promise of homecoming is never far. In addition to sporting one of the few rhythm sections substantial enough to sustain Jarrett’s high metabolism, the quartet also found an ideal harmonic partner for him in Garbarek.
And then, of course, there is the “Standards Trio” with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. More than a band (and, by that measure, more than a standards machine), it was a world unto itself where timeless tunes and spontaneous miracles danced as equals. The title track of 1991’s The Cure is as much atmospherically as it is technically unchained, while 1995’s At The Blue Note shows a tessellated rapport in “Bop-Be” and “No Lonely Nights.”
At the risk of belaboring a simile I’ve used before, Jarrett’s oeuvre is like a globe that one could spin and land a finger on anywhere to plot a path of genius. In this collection, we find as intimate an itinerary as one could chart through the experiences of an artist without equal, not even to himself.