Keith Jarrett is an American pianist and composer of jazz and classical music who is best known for his very wide- ranging, improvisational style. He is most famous for his solo shows, where he often starts with little to no preconceived notions of what he will play and simply improvises the entire performance. Some of these solo live performances have been recorded and are among Jarrett’s most popular albums including 1975’s The Köln Concert.
During his early career Jarrett played with Art Blakey, Charles Lloyd and Miles Davis (he was a member of the Davis band from 1970 to 1972), but after 1972 he left behind the electrification of jazz that was the leading direction of the day, and worked for many years exclusively as a pianist with a groundbreaking improvisational style.
In the 1960’s Keith Jarrett started a series of smaller groups, which included a trio with Paul Motian and Charles Haden. They recorded their second and undoubtedly their strangest album Restoration Room in 1968, which sounded almost like a folk rock album, which featured Jarrett singing. On this album he hardly brushed the key of the piano but played several other instruments.
The majority of his recordings and concerts in the last 20 years have featured him playing acoustical piano exclusively, although he can also play drums, harpsichord, organ, and saxophone. He played percussion and saxophone on the recordings he made while with the American quarter in the early 1970’s.
In the mid and late 1970s he played in the European quartet with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen. He has also played classical music, and made several classical recordings including Bach’s Goldberg Variations and the works of George Frederic Handel.
In 2003, Jarrett was awarded the Polar Music Prize, becoming the first and only person ever to not share the prize with another. The following year he received the Leonie Sonning Music Prize as well. His career has made him a groundbreaking and influential jazz figure and he continues to inspire the newest generations of jazz pianists.
Keith Jarrett is a famous American jazz pianist and composer of both jazz and classical music. He was born May 8th, 1945 in Allentown, Pennsylvania and grew up as the eldest of five brothers. He attended his first piano lessons at the age of three, and four years later, at only seven years old, he stood on stage for the first time. In the years after he gave several concerts.
In 1962, at the age of 17, Keith conducted a two hour long concert that he had written himself – without having received any training in either orchestration or composition.
In consultation with his mother, he refused an offer to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Jarrett did spend time as a student at Berkley College of Music in Boston, but dropped out after only a year.
Shortly after, he started playing with famous jazz musicians, such as Chet Baker, Lee Konitz, and for some time, Art Blakey. In 1966 he started working saxophonist Charles Lloyd, with whom he went on several European tours. Keith Jarrett and his band also played at the Monterey Pop Festival and the Fillmore West. In 1968 he started a trio with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian. In the period between 1971 and 1976 their trio was temporarily made a quartet by the saxophonist Dewey Redman, known as the American Quartet.
In the late 1960s Keith Jarrett’s name started to become known to more than just the innermost core of jazz fans, but his real breakthrough came when he in 1969, when he became a member of Miles Davis’ jazz rock group. Jarrett was part of Miles Davis’ lineup until 1971, playing mainly the electronic piano and electronic organ.
After the time with Davis, Keith Jarrett started playing music as a solo artist, recording his own albums. By 1975 he had played more than 50 solo concerts all over the world. Some of these are documented; Solo Concerts Bremen/Lausanne from 1974 and The Köln Concert from 1975 are two testaments of his unique work. These were, surprisingly enough, able to become best sellers among many audiences of the 1970’s who had otherwise never before been interested in jazz. Recordings from five solo concerts in Japan, with a total of 40,000 people in the audience, were released in 1979 in the form of a collection of 10 LP’s under carrying the title Sun Bear Concerts.
At about the same time as this compilation album was released, producer Manfred Eicher helped Jarrett get in touch with musicians such as saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen for what is called the European Quartet.
In 1983 he returned to the piano trio format, in a collaboration with Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. They played a lot of standard songs and were named Standards Trio. A series of recordings with this group were made, most of them live.
In the mid-1990s Jarrett was affected by myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), which made him unable to play the piano until 1998. He has since made quite a few successful recordings and in 2004 he received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize which had only ever been given to one other jazz musician, Miles Davis, and is normally reserved for classical composers.
It’s hard to put Keith Jarrett’s musical style into any one category. He originally studied classical piano and was known as a child prodigy, being able to improvise Mozart when he was only 6. While he eventually picked up jazz and became a jazz piano virtuoso, he has continued to perform and record classical music throughout his career. He has also ventured into jazz fusion during various times in his career as well.
In addition to playing classical and jazz piano and composing, Jarrett is also able to play multiple other instruments, although he has since stopped playing anything but the piano in concert and on his albums. While playing jazz in concert, Jarrett is well known for being extremely active and moving his body around constantly while playing. He also makes many vocalizations similar to those of other great jazz pianists and influences like Thelonious Monk and Oscar Robertson. These noises make him seem to be truly interacting with the music he’s playing.
A noticeable element in Jarrett’s music is solo improvisations, into which he draws elements, not only from jazz, but also from genres such as classical music, gospel, blues and ethnic music. These improvisations are documented in unusually extensive live recordings, including Solo Concerts Bremen/Lausanne and The Sun Bear Concerts. It is well known that he often goes into a concert with no music prepared ahead of time.
Another famous solo album recorded by Keith Jarrett is Dark Intervals, which was recorded in Tokyo in 1987. This concert, although entirely improvised, sounded more like a string of short compositions, and was not played in his usual extremely free style.
His earliest jazz influences were famous jazz pianists such as Art Tatum and Oscar Robertson, whose recordings first exposed Jarrett to jazz. He would soon start playing jazz, although it didn’t take him long to develop his own virtuoso style. Still, these earliest influences can still be seen in the way he draws from the early jazz traditions in his improvisations.
Overall, Jarrett’s unique style has been quite influential in the development of modern jazz.
Videos and Recordings
Keith Jarrett Trio plays Someday My Prince Will Come: