Keith Jarrett’s Last (?) Solo Album? The Budapest Concert

Keith Jarrett’s Solo Live Concerts

Keith Jarrett is without doubt the most important solo jazz pianist out there. $

He’s been touring the world for nearly 50 years now with his solo concerts, his 1975 Köln Concert still holds many records from a sales perspective, and I’ve already reviewed a number of his live solo albums on this blog (Munich, Paris, A Multitude Of Angels, Bregenz München, La Scala). I’ve even listed his Bremen Lausanne in My 25 Essential Jazz albums.

In fact, it was me attending a Jarrett solo live concert in Lucerne in 2015 that got me to start this blog in the first place, more than 5 years ago now.

So it was with great sadness that I recently saw in the New York Times that Keith Jarrett may never be able to play again due to severe health issues. What a loss, if true. I sincerely hope he recovers, as other pianists have after similar situations.

So, could this album that was just released today be his final live album ever?

Budapest Concert (ECM 2020)

Keith Jarrett Budapest Concert ECM 2020 24/96

This concert was recorded on July 3, 2016, in Budapest obviously, only some days after the previously released Munich 2016 album that was released last fall, and a bit more than a year after I saw him live myself.

The album lasts nearly 90 minutes, structured as often in his later albums in shorter “parts”, a total of 12 (in Roman numerals) this time, with two encores.

I’m not going to describe each part in detail here, I’m not sure that would make for a very enjoyable reading. I’m just going to flag some of my favorite parts, which are II, a slower improvisation, V, again a slower meandering around melodic impressions, and VII, the most dreaming part of the entire album.

That said, for me, the true highlights are the the two encores, Answer Me, that was previously released as a teaser (and was also part of his encores in Munich), and even more importantly, It’s a Lonesome Old Town (also performed in Munich). I could just spend entire days listening to these simple but very deep improvisations (I’m a simple guy, I like melodies).

Overall, to put things into context, this isn’t my preferred Jarrett live album, it is not an essential album if you’re not a hardcore Jarrett fan like me. I’ll obviously buy it anyhow.

And let’s all hope that this won’t be the last solo album he’ll ever record.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz)

Author: Musicophile

I'm not a professional musician, I don't work in the music industry, I'm just what the name says, somebody who loves music. I've been in love with music for all of my life, took piano lessons for nearly 10 years, and played in several amateur Jazz groups. I go to concerts, both classical and Jazz, quite regularly. And I collect music previously on vinyl and CDs, now on my computer, and am slightly OCD on my music collection. You can reach me at Musicophile1(AT)gmail.com

13 thoughts on “Keith Jarrett’s Last (?) Solo Album? The Budapest Concert”

  1. Thank you. Of course, this recording is perceived in its entirety in light of the recent news of a possible career end. Maybe that’s why it’s difficult for me to evaluate it calmly and soberly and to compare to the previous albums. It’s very sad, and very moving. Each of the few remaining sounds is priceless.

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    1. I fully agree, it is also very emotional for me. I just try to stay as “objective” as possible (while fully acknowledging that there’s no such thing as an “objective” music review), and if you just start with Jarrett’s immense solo work, I wouldn’t start here.

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  2. I have never been a fan of Keith Jarret’s, so not surprisingly, I must disagree with your opening assertion. I would certainly say that Aaron Diehl and Craig Taborn are more interesting musicians in completely different ways. I saw Mr. Jarrett live many years ago and found the experience boring and self-indulgent. His meandering style had brief moments of cohesion as he searched for musical ideas. I never went to see him again. Clearly he has a big fan base, and I certainly don’t wish him ill. But calling him the most important jazz soloist out there is absurd.

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    1. Thanks for your feedback Clifford. I’m the first to acknowledge that there is no such thing as an objective “best”, and I agree that Jarrett certainly has a big ego, and there’s about 50% of his albums I really don’t like. That said, I stand by my statement regarding his “importance”, as he’s clearly influenced a lot of musicians in his more than 50 years. Now, with regards to Aaron Diehl, I’m a great fan, but I’ve only seen him live performing with Cecile McLorin Salvant (where he’s doing a fantastic job), but am not aware of his solo works. Could you point me to a specific album? Now with regards to Craig Taborn, I don’t really know him well. The 2 or 3 albums I’ve heard from him (e.g. Light Made Lighter) didn’t leave any lasting impressions for me. But I’d be happy to explore further. Again, any particular album you’d recommend?

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      1. Unfortunately, Aaron’s solo efforts are only available for streaming. There is one called “Live from Caramoor” which is available on Amazon. If you only know him as a sideman for Ms. Salvant, you are missing a treasure trove of some of the best trio playing around. A hard to find, but spectacular cd is Mozart Jazz. “The Bespoke Man’s Narrative” is another trio gem. “Avenging Angel” is Craig’s only solo effort on cd. I have seen him live many times, first with James Carter and from that point on, I have been a fan. His duet with Kris Davis (another important pianist in my opinion) is also worth a listen.

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      2. Thanks for those recommendations. I’ll make sure to check them out. But given how little solo work they’ve released I’m a bit puzzled that you took issue with my statement of Jarrett being the most important solo pianist out there, whether you like his style or not. I find it hard to compare one or two solo albums to the dozens of live solo albums and concerts that Jarrett has done over 5 decades.

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      3. The fact that Jarrett made a ton of solo albums, doesn’t make him, to my mind, important or groundbreaking. If you are saying that he has chosen to record mostly as a soloist, and that he is still alive, then I guess I will have to concede the point. However, compared to say, Art Tatum, or Hank Jones, or John Lewis, or Teddy Wilson, or Earl Hines, or Sun Ra (I could go on and on), I don’t see him in the same league. I do think that Aaron Diehl and Craig Taborn belong in the pantheon of great jazz pianists however. And, just because they haven’t recorded as much solo as Mr. Jarrett, I have seen them play solo live. In fact, Mr. Diehl did a solo performance from Duke University during the pandemic (though he didn’t do much improvisation and instead showed his classical roots). Keith Jarrett has garnered a good deal of adulation from people that seem to me to be less steeped in the jazz tradition. I don’t think he deserves that much praise and that is what caused me to respond. On the other hand, I don’t usually get much pleasure out of raining on someone else’s parade. If you like him, enjoy.

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  3. I should add that the early James Carter albums with Craig as a member of the band, shows you where he started and then as you listen to albums he headlines, you see how he’s developed.

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    1. That’s funny. You take artist X who recorded vast amount of enormously influential and adored recordings through decades and tell that artist Y is better, but his output is scarcely accessible. You know what? There is an artist Z, he didn’t record anything yet, but he is even better than Y 🙂

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  4. Thanks for this. I too was stunned upon reading the NYT article last week. Mr. Jarrett has released so many albums that I had taken for granted that he would always be with us. In his brightest moments, of which there have been many, he is truly transcendent. Beyond the Koln and Sun Bear recordings, “The Melody at Night, With You” and the duo albums with Charlie Haden come to mind immediately.

    While he clearly will be unable to play any more two-handed concerts (and sadly, Gary Peacock passed away last month), take comfort in the fact that ECM almost certainly recorded everything he has played for decades and will treat us to several lifetimes of additional releases.

    To compare Keith Jarrett to any current pianist is truly laughable. I enjoy Aaron Diehl, Gerald Clayton, Craig Taborn, Robert Glasper, Joey Alexander, Iiro Rantala, Marcin Wasilewski, and dozens of other individual killers. Jarrett is a universe unto himself. We lost the greatest left hand you are ever going to hear. Thankfully, Brad Mehldau is still playing. There is no need to force him into some jazz lineage. Just savor his unprecedented expressive touch.

    I suspect those who feel KJ is overrated (and yet somehow richer than all other living jazz pianists combined) simply haven’t experienced his brilliant peaks yet, which is understandable given the over-abundance of records. Standards Trio I & II are terrific. They could have stopped there and we’d mostly be fine. But to think that those who appreciate him aren’t sufficiently steeped in the jazz tradition is like a teenager who thinks his parents don’t really understand the world. I remember once declaring The Beatles to be overrated. Time fixed that. 🙂

    For Jarrett to declare himself the “John Coltrane of the piano”, someone after whom all others are derivatives, was equally laughable. That man’s name is Bill Evans.

    Keith is no perfect person. But despite his epic ego, I still agree with him–I am lucky to have lived in his time. I hope that his love of music will propel him to make more of it in whatever way he is able. I would take a one-handed Keith Jarrett recording any day.

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  5. KJ has to be one of the best pianist of all time. Over 30 years later, the Köln Concert album still floors me! There is not argument there. Pity, the several strokes he has suffered might end such an illustrious career.

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