Keith Jarrett - Munich 2016
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Me and ECM has a long lasting relationship, with everything that comes with relationships, including its ups and downs. Starting our romance somewhere around the mid 90's, when a rise of a new calm, atmospheric, experimental kind of jazz was brought to life. Anyone I knew then, that had a bit of love for new things in him, would immediately connect to albums such as Nils Petter Molvær: Khmer (1997), Ketil Bjørnstad: The Sea (1995) and many more. A new form of jazz was evolving. A different genre of music with a new kind of sound and a real sense of creation. It was as if the artist's were saying - we are no different from the greatest composers. And it all flourished under the baton of the talented, visionary, Manfred Eicher, and his remarkable producing and recording skills.
These albums were a teaser for me to start search for more. At the time I was a clerk in a CD's shop in Tel-Aviv, working in the world, jazz, classical, quite big, almost a complete different store, section. Most of our time there we spent talking, ignoring the intruding customers. Much of it complete nonsense. Although, sometimes we were on to something or at least we thought we were; speaking about life, love, our dreams and music of course, through a thick haze of weed smoke, a lot of Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert. The first time I played his "white album" (how we used to call it), I was a bit skeptic. I didn't listen to any solo piano albums until then, didn't like it and preferred trios, to be honest. solo albums bored me. Well, as you might guess, it took just one note to change my mind completely. Kieth's playing touched me someplace else, in a way that was almost mystical; The massive sound, the tempo developing step by step into some kind of trans, Keith's shoutings in the back, the fluidness of his improvisation, his blues, his "feel". Everything was anything but boring. And turns out, I wasn't the only one. Up until today, The Köln Concert has sold over 3 millions copies. An outstanding number for a jazz record. Undoubtedly, Kieth Jarrett had a big part of ECM's establishment and success. And he still has. His new Munich live concert from 2016 is a great example for that. When comparing it to the Köln concert, you can't hear the years passing between the two. The spark and energy of the 74-year-old pianist are still there, and to be able to survive years managing a successful record label you really need time to be out of the equation. In other words, Keith Jarrett is still alive and kicking. The 2016 Munich performance is what you would call a masterpiece. A showcase of a genius at work. The concert is divided into twelve parts of free improvisation, afterwards comes a short glimpse on his interpretation to three beautiful standards, including two of my own favorites: Somewhere over the rainbow and Frank Sinatra's it's a lonesome old town. Still, the good stuff happens at the first twelve. So I pressed the play button and passed forward to no 3, skipping the more intuitive, less communicative, wouldn't say tiring, first two parts, and in a second it threw me back to that same record store, with the same talks, haze, madness and excitement about everything almost. Keith's playing is so distinct, it arouses visions and memories, you can even smell it. Not to be mistaken with nostalgia, which always comes with the listeners intent. Here, it grabs you unprepared. Keith builds his music out of thin air. He does it with the collaboration of his audience, revealing himself and his music in such a way You can see the insides of improvisation, not only the outcome but also the process of creating a music piece. In a big way, that's jazz, but here it expends further - Imagine a painter painting right in front of you, But has no canvas to paint on. That's the way you feel all through the album. Keith is using his ears and yours together (and his long life experience of playing), to take you along with him into his own crazy impulsive journey, he himself still doesn't know when or where it would end. Sometimes it seems as if he brings himself to that high degree of meditation he has no control of the music that comes out of his hands. It is like he observes everything exactly like you. As a brilliant classical musician besides being one of the greatest jazz players of our time, Keith Jarrett has gained knowledge at a variety of music disciplines. He understands music differently. And now, finally, when I started listening to the whole album from scratch, I think he actually knows something we don't - about music, about life, just like in that record store. He wants to talk to us. He has a need to share his secret. And to do so, he has to break music apart for us. So he breaks it to pieces and then glues it back together. There are parts on this album that has no structure, no scale and no tempo at all. just a resonance of lines colliding. Surely, these are not the easy parts of the concert, but without them, the whole story would be incomplete. When a broken part ends and after it does, harmony suddenly occurs with the right melody standing above it almost by mistake, it is pure magic. Munich 2016 is a concert of 12 courses served at a 3 michelin stars restaurant. First you get the tones, then the harmony, then you must be filled with melody, and groove, and dynamics and feeling. one just wouldn't exist without the other. And then, for desert, to set the final tone, like a conclusion or a clarification, comes the songs, putting all pieces in order - scales, chords, tonality - saying "The trip is over, we have come to the end of the trail". And the dream of becoming someone, of becoming larger than life, suddenly makes sense again. Everything is in the right place.