Keith Jarrett’s Live Albums
Keith Jarrett and his solo piano concerts are legendary.
If Wikipedia is to be trusted, his Köln Concert is the best-selling solo and piano album in the history, with more than 3.5M albums sold. This may not be much by Taylor Swift standards, but for Jazz, where albums usually selling a some thousands of albums, this number is just mind-boggling.
And what is probably even more mind-boggling is that the Köln Concert is not a one hit wonder, but Jarrett has turned out dozens of solo concert albums in the last thirty years, and usually nearly all of them are worth having.
I’ve started this blog writing about the lucky chance I had to see Jarrett live earlier this year, and it is truly an outstanding experience.
In my 25 Essential Jazz albums post, I’ve promised to myself that I’ll eventually review all of his live solo albums.
This will be a challenging task, but well, you’ve got to have ambitions in life. Let’s see how long this journey is going to take.
La Scala (ECM 1997)
Every journey has got to start somewhere. I rather randomly chose La Scala for a start. Why? Well, the cover is beautiful, and it is probably one of the lesser known albums.
La Scala was recorded (you would have guessed) in Milan’s famous opera house, in 1995, and released in 1997. Apparently, this is the first time a solo jazz concert was hosted in these illustrious walls.
The formal structure of the concert is very simple, you have “Part I” (approx 45 min) and Part II, adding 28 more minutes.
Part I evolves very slowly over time. it reminds me of a large river maeandering slowly and majestically. You have time to let your mind wander around while listening to this. In a way, this nearly becomes meditation music, but this is Jarrett, so you can rest assured that you won’t get bored, instead you just keep floating with the river.
Part II starts a bit randomly. This is the style I personally don’t really like that much, I just get lost without a clear melody and rhythm. Well luckily for me he doesn’t overdo the randomness, and structure reemerges rather quickly after around 4 minutes or so. Unlike part I, this part has some much faster flows, and while part I was focused on chords, here you often just get a chain of individual notes. Around 10 min in, the character changes again, chords reappear, and a melodic structure reemerges.
And in my personal opinion, he’s really saving the best for last. The encore is “Over the Rainbow”, in a very simple, minimalistic approach. I’ve mentioned previously how much I love this song, and I’m not disappointed here either.
My rating: 4 stars (not the most essential of Jarrett’s solo albums, but we’re really talking from a very high standard here, this is still better than 95% of other solo piano albums out there).