Jarrett, Keith (Daniel)

views updated

Jarrett, Keith (Daniel)

Jarrett, Keith (Daniel), highly original jazz pianist, composer; b. Allentown, Pa., May 8, 1945. Jarrett, a descendent of Hungarian and Scottish parents, was a child prodigy who studied piano from age three and presented a full recital and was composing and improvising at seven years-old. He wrote and copyrighted three pieces, “Snap Dragon” (July 1959), “Barbara” (July 1959, under the pseudonym Danny Jay), and “Jungle Suite” (July 1961). Omette Coleman and Paul Bley were major early influences. Jarrett briefly attended Berklee Coll. of Music and led his own trio around Boston in the early 1960s. He moved to N.Y. in 1965 where he played and recorded with Art Blakey. He gained international acclaim with the influential Charles Lloyd Quartet (1966–69). In July 1970 he appeared with Gary Burton in a stunning set at Newport; it was never captured on record. He agreed to play electric instruments in order to tour with Miles Davis (1970–71) but has always steered away from them otherwise.

In 1975 he made a sensationally popular recording of solo improvisations, The Koln Concert, which established his reputation as a jazz virtuoso. By the mid-1980s he was playing short pieces and even standards in his solo concerts. A concert in Tokyo was billed as the Last Concert, but in the early 1990s he returned to playing live performances.

His debt to Omette Coleman became explicit when he led a quartet with Coleman’s former bandmates Dewey Redman and Charlie Haden, and Bley and Bill Evans’s drummer Paul Motian (1974–78). (He had been recording and occasionally performing with Haden and Motian since the early 1970s.) In 1977 he made a recording with Jan Garbarek and a Scandinavian rhythm section; they toured and recorded live in N.Y. two years later. Since then he has usually performed jazz in solo or trio. Jarrett also composed pieces for classical ensembles, drawing on a rich variety of musical traditions. From the early 1980s he made appearances as a classical pianist, specializing in modern works and especially those of Bela Bartok; in 1987 he gave a particularly spirited performance in N.Y. of Lou Harrison’s Piano Concerto, a performance he repeated in Tokyo which served as the basis for the critically acclaimed 1988 recording. He canceled concerts during 1997 and 1998 due to chronic fatigue syndrome. He is an unmistakably passionate, brilliant, virtuoso, open to all kinds of music making. He has recorded everything from standards with a trio to free improvisations to over-dubbing himself playing various wind and folk instruments to written classical pieces. Within the field he is highly controversial, largely because of his outspoken and often arrogant published statements on the true nature of music, which are usually critical of others.


Life Between the Exit Signs (1967); Restoration Ruin (1968); Somewhere Before (1968); With Gary Burton (1968); The Mourning of a Star (1971); Birth (1971); Expectations (1971); Facing You (1971); ECM Works (1971); Rutya and Daitya (1972); In the Light (1973); Fort Yawuh (1973); Solo Concerts: Bremen and Lausanne (live; 1973); Treasure Island (1974); Belonging (1974); Luminessence (1974); Backhand (1974); Personal Mountains (1974); The Köln Concert (live; 1975); Death and the Flower (1975); Arbour Zena (1975); Mysteries (1975); Shades (1975); El Juicio (1976); The Survivor’s Suite (1976); Eyes of the Heart (1976); Spheres (1976); Staircase (1976); Hymns / Spheres (1976); Ritual (1977); Silence (1977); Byablue (1977); Bop-Be (1977); My Song (1977); Nude Ants (1979); Invocations (1979); Sacred Hymns (1980); The Celestial Hawk (1980); Concerts (live; 1981); Changes (1983); Standards, Vol. 1 (1983); Standards, Vol. 2 (1983); Spirits 1 & 2 (1985); Standards Live (1985); Still Live (1986); Keith Jarrett Concerts (live; 1986); Changeless (1987); Dark Intervals (1988); The Well Tempered Clavier: Book 1 (Bach) (1988); Works by Lou Harrison (1989); Standards in Norway (1989); The Cure (live; 1990); Paris Concert (live; 1990); Book of Ways (1991); Vienna Concert (live; 1991); Bye Bye Blackbird (1991); The Well Tempered Clavier: Book 2 (Bach) (1991); At the Deer Head Inn (1992); Bridge of Light (1993); La Scala (live; 1995); Keith Jarrett at the Blue Note (live; 1995); Tokyo ’96 (live; 1998); The Melody at Night, with You (1999).

—Lewis Porter