Friday, July 3, 2009

Is Keith Jarrett Too Popular to be Good?

Here is a bit of personal jazz history. My first exposure to jazz came when I made friends with an English professor, Meade Harwell. He turned me on to Bill Evans, which might have been one of the greatest gifts anyone ever gave me. Okay, now fast forward: I left Arkansas and went to college in Tucson Arizona. My best friend in my first year there had a copy of Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert. I remember asking Spet to let me borrow it, but he wouldn't let me play it on my old Panasonic suitcase record player. He did play it for me on his stereo, and I was entranced.

Köln Concert is surely one of jazz music's best sellers. Like Kind of Blue, it continues to rake in the revenue, year after year. According to Wikipedia, it is the best selling jazz solo album. I don't doubt that. But unlike KOB, the success of TKC seems to have made Jarrett's status in jazz somewhat problematic. Jazz fans are used to the idea that the music they love best is never going to be top forty. It's easy to go from there to the idea that any jazz record that appeals to a large audience isn't really authentic. My daughter, who is a big indie music fan, seems to have that same attitude.

Jarrett's trio style certainly seems to be at home in the living room with the unused piano, the white carpet, and the city view out the window. Pour a wine spritzer, do some blow, and listen to Jarrett. But none of that is his fault.

Keith Jarrett is as serious a jazzman as his generation ever produced. There is real depth and genius in
The Köln Concert. I am just beginning to explore his work. I picked up his Standards2. This is great trio. Bass is Life, you will like it. Gary Peacock (another Zen enthusiast) plays bass. Jack DeJohnette is on drums. The recording is stellar, the trio is feeling their way around a very large and resonant space. Here is a sample:
Keith Jarrett/So Tender/Standards 2
Give it a listen and then get the disc. iTunes has it. And keep me posted. I need confirmation!

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