Live Music: Keith Jarrett at Disney Concert Hall

By Tony Gieske

Keith Jarrett crossed the Disney Hall stage at a stately pace last night, pretended to sit down facing away from the gleaming Steinway, then turned around, sat down, and broke the pin-drop silence with a ballet-like maneuver in which he extended both hands to the farthest reaches of the keyboard.

The dazzling opposing runs they produced would have frightened Cecil Taylor, but their shocking swiftness and agility would not necessarily have brought him enjoyment. Agility is not the same as profundity.

Soon, though, there were some comforting Satie-like sounds, chords yet not chords, played almost inaudibly — and then a chordal reprise of the opening contrary single-finger action.  Almost inaudibly. But not quite!

Because no matter how rapidly or softly or loudly the pianist deployed his gnarly, high-velocity streams of teeny little notes, every note registered clearly on the listener’s ear — even the arpeggios within arpeggios that he liked to tuck in up there.  So that if the Niagara-like outcome seemed undecipherable, the man’s towering pianism gave you a handhold. It spoke to many a solitary hour of practice at his legendary 18th century farm home in rural New Jersey.

As the piece ended, a warm flow of loud applause reached Jarrett, prompting a bow with a touch of sarcastic gratitude. Applause is applause, he seemed to tell the audience, but it doesn’t overwhelm a Commandeur del’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres like me.

Another number began with Debussy-like sounds, if not chords, in the right hand, and seemed to want to become “Stella by Starlight.” But to ask Jarrett to play a song would be like asking Picasso to paint a pot. Pablo would do it, but it’d be more about the history of painting technique than the appearance of a pot.

Jarrett composes as he goes along, creating a new song no matter what ballad avatar he might have in mind, and his mind is swift. Yet somehow, he makes the coils of excogitation into tender buttons, drawing you into moments of whispered, utter sweetness.

He drew from Bartok’s Mikrokosmos for a fast-moving piece much like From the Diary of a Fly, except that Jarrett’s fly seemed to have tasted a little meth. Still, it showed reach.

Toward the end of his performance, after a request for “Hey, Ba Ba Re Bop,” Jarrett gave in and played some amazing jazz, with a unique, boppish left hand and some triple-velocity Illinois Jacquet moves as he developed the treble clef. Perhaps he wouldn’t like to admit it, but he was swinging.

Can’t help tolerating that man.

To read more iRoM reviews by Tony Gieske click here.

Read and see more of Tony Gieske’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site tonyspage.com.

2 thoughts on “Live Music: Keith Jarrett at Disney Concert Hall

  1. Oh, he wouldn’t only admit it, he’d pride himself on it!

    He even said in one of his commentaries last night “…What happened to mastery? What happened to SWINGING?…”

    what a night … Wow!!!

    Like

  2. “As the piece ended, a warm flow of loud applause reached Jarrett, prompting a bow with a touch of sarcastic gratitude. Applause is applause, he seemed to tell the audience, but it doesn’t overwhelm a Commandeur del’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres like me.”

    That paragraph is why I respect Jarrett as a pianist but find him petulant and precious. There’s no denying his greatness, however. (he’s like a Michael Jordan)

    Like

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