Jazz

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Eric My­ers

La Fenice Keith Jarrett ECM This dou­ble al­bum of 97 min­utes was recorded live on July 19, 2006 at one of Venice’s clas­si­cal mu­sic venues, Gran Teatro La Fenice, be­fore an au­di­ence of 1100. Jarrett plays eight spon­ta­neous im­pro­vi­sa­tions (Parts I-VIII), with a struc­tured com­po­si­tion in­ter­leaved af­ter Part VI, The Sun Whose Rays, from Gilbert & Sul­li­van’s op­eretta The Mikado. The con­cert closes with three en­cores that are struc­tured: the tra­di­tional My Wild Irish Rose, the Vic­tor Young stan­dard Stella By Starlight and one of Jarrett’s com­po­si­tions, Blos­som. The crit­i­cal is­sue in free im­pro­vi­sa­tion is how the per­former jux­ta­poses two im­pulses: fa­mil­iar­ity and ab­strac­tion. Some per­form­ers in this genre who re­ject the sounds of the past lux­u­ri­ate in what­ever mu­sic emerges in the mo­ment, even if it some­times re­sem­bles lit­tle more than noise. The great strength of Jarrett’s mu­sic is that, even when it is atonal or far-out, it al­ways sounds eerily fa­mil­iar. Jarrett’s abil­ity to bal­ance those two im­pulses has en­abled him to achieve both crit­i­cal ac­claim and mass ap­peal. He can­not dis­guise the fact that he is the liv­ing em­bod­i­ment of the jazz tra­di­tion.

The fa­mil­iar sign­posts are ev­ery­where: here is be­bop, there is the jazz bal­lad; here are rich har­monic changes rem­i­nis­cent of Bill Evans, there are sim­ple pas­sages as touch­ing as Chick Corea’s chil­dren’s songs. Part VIII is blues. And so on. At other times, there are shim­mer­ing pas­sages that might have been writ­ten by Ravel or De­bussy.

Add two other ma­jor qual­i­ties of Jarrett’s artistry — his ten­der touch at the key­board (he is never heavy-handed, even at for­tis­simo) and his un­par­al­leled at­ten­tion to dy­nam­ics (he knows when high en­ergy needs to re­vert to still­ness) — and you have a pi­anis­tic ge­nius.

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