Keith Jarrett – Munich 2016 – ECM Records ECM 2667/68 082 9260 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 76:27 *****:
During his storied career, Keith Jarrett has been a part of vital jazz ensembles. He toured with Miles Davis and Art Blakey. In 1966, he came to prominence as a member of the Charles Lloyd Quartet. He formed two of his own quartets, one American (Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Dewey Redmond) and one European (Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson, Jon Christensen). Additionally he recorded with a Standards Trio (Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette). Jarrett is perhaps at his creative apex in his solo piano albums. In particular, his extended improvised solo concerts have captivated jazz audiences. These albums include The Köln Concert (1975) Paris Concert (1990), Vienna Concert (1991) and La Scala (1995). Despite health issues, Jarrett has continued to perform live in a variety of styles.
With such a brilliant, sustained career, Jarrett’s fans have always anticipated a newer live album. They have been substantially rewarded with the release of Keith Jarrett – Munich 2016 on ECM Records. Vinyl aficionados will be pleased that this performance is available on two 180-gram discs. Recorded at the venerable Philharmonic Hall, Jarrett storms through a twelve-part “improvisational suite” that is challenging and musically diverse, before a vintage three-song encore. “Part I” is a mesmerizing broad exercise of floating dissonance and sustained intensity. There is a free-form polyrhythmic flow that eventually leads to a muscular (especially left-hand) pounding tempo. An air of brooding, at times foreboding is captured by an assortment of classical and jazz inflections. “Part II” takes on the resonance of a hushed elegy with a rolling melancholy. It is equally open or free improvisation, but feels like a mournful etude. It is a compelling amalgamation of classical and free jazz.
Shifting to a different template, “Part III” is signature gospel-infused Jarrett.The depth of melody and bluesy intonation is heartfelt. There is a thematic flow that captures the duality of gospel, mournful and aspirational. The pianists injects sone funk in a more straight-ahead blues romp in “Part IV”. By this point, the audience is expressing its enthusiasm in more immediate applause. In yet another transition, “Part V” glides like a pastoral opus. It displays a winsome mood, distilled by uncanny precision and atmospheric tonality. The piece is achingly beautiful. With deft technique, “Part V” starts with trilling that Jarrett manages to envelop with ascending and descending chords. Divergent, but complimentary left and right hand manipulations insinuate a melancholic tenor. Closing out the first disc, “Part VII” is a wild romp, avant-garde with a motor. Jarrett has always been able to distill harmonic essence in an improvisational setting. On “Part VIII”, he utilizes a feather-like touch in what feels like a nocturne or even a hymnal. Even as he builds to a dramatic point, he dials it back to a virtual hush. The listener can hear a slight reverberation on a bass note. “Part IX” has a boogie woogie prominence. His left hand executes stride walking as he counters with right hand flourishes. Then Jarrett assumes a hypnotic complexity on “Part X”. He uses the higher register, but complements that with a driving left hand.
One of the trademarks of a live Keith Jarrett improvisational performance is its unflinching inventiveness. There is no repetition. Finishing up the “suite”, “Part XI” is a sauntering display that seamlessly invokes elements of tension and pathos. The finale is a concise. blistering piece with technical dexterity that is compelling. A staple of Jarrett’s live set is the encore which are covers of older popular songs. “Answer My Love” was a huge German hit in 1953, and has been recorded by an assortment of singers (Nat King Cole, Frankie Laine, Petula Clark, Betty Buckley, Joni Mitchell, Roy Orbison) and jazz artists like Don Shirley. Jarrett insinuates a lilting rhythm with heartwarming shading. Overall, it is a quiet, charming rendition, and the audience responds with wild, hometown enthusiasm The second number in the encore is “It’s A Lonesome Old Town”. All of the depression-era melancholy is represented in this ruminative arrangement. Harold Arlen’s eternally nostalgic standard “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is jazz bliss in the hands of this extraordinary musician. He begins with the chorus and weaves in and out of the melody with graceful agility.
Keith Jarrett – Munich 2016 is another stunning achievement. It is among Jarrett’s finest performances, equal to The Köln Concert. It is defined by ambitious musical vision and flawless virtuosic instrumentation. Nearly five decades after the release of Facing You, Keith Jarrett and ECM continue to have an impact on the jazz world.
Side 1: Part I; Part II
Side 2: Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII
Side 3: Part VIII; Part IX: Part X
Side 4: Part XI; Part XII; Answer My Love; It’s A Lonesome Old Town; Somewhere Over The Rainbow