To mark Keith Jarrett’s 70th Birthday, ECM have raided his extensive back catalogue for two historic releases. Whilst Creation explores the heart of Jarrett’s oeuvre with a compilation of his free improvisation, this disc shows the breadth of his repertoire with two recordings of classical concerti.
Barber’s Piano Concerto, op.38, hovers between post-romanticism and post-serialism. In his 1984 recording of the concerto in Saarbrücken, Jarrett maintains a remarkable clarity, particularly in the unsettled first movement, and brings freshness to the second movement where Barber’s lush extended tonality becomes mawkish. Jarrett’s gallop through the Allegro third movement is raucous and fun, with some excellent interplay with the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Jarrett recorded Bartók’s third Piano Concerto a year later in Tokyo. Composed after migrating to the US, Bartók’s piece is incredibly gestural, filled with idiomatic figures inspired by the jazz and folk inflections of Gershwin and Copland. Jarrett’s playing is dextrous and assured, especially in the cacophonous third movement, but the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra are somewhat heavy-handed.
An improvised encore from the Tokyo concert closes the disc – a quietly profound off-the-cuff moment reminding us precisely why Jarrett is one of our age’s greatest musicians.
Originally published on Sinfini Music.