With Keith Jarrett not gigging at the moment and his most recent 2017 Carnegie Hall concert recording not released as yet as an official or indeed any kind of album, if in fact this is what ultimately happens to it which let's face it is highly likely because ECM record all his concerts, this Gasteig, Munich, recording is the most recent of the pianist-composer's available.
One man, one piano, on 16 July 2016. Playing solo is partly why Jarrett is world famous and yet there is so much more. However, let us not forget that Köln Concert is an album that has sold millions of records, spawned books, thesis after thesis, soundtracked films and most importantly of all facilitated life changing experiences. Munich 2016 may also change lives.
The first disc is avant garde and full of deep and very dark solo improvisations in seven parts, five further parts in this regard follow on the opening part of the second disc.
A series of on one level home truths, ones that you have never heard before. The first improvisation is just under 14 minutes long. If it were a painting it would be abstract expressionist and dark violet. I am thinking and looking at a Gerhard Richter and that seems apt.
Yes this is intense music. What Jarrett is about. 'Part 1' becomes more of a conversation between the stern left hand and conversational right as it goes on. But there is an anarchy to it in addition and sometimes the anarchy wins, sometimes the baroque structures that Jarrett is so good at constructing fight back to dominate. The huge crowd reaction at the end of the track is deafening but distracting.
'Part II' is half the first's length and, if you like, a ballad. What we are looking at here, although this applies throughout all the free-form tracks on Munich 2016, is real time composition. Again this is something Jarrett and few others anywhere on the planet can do so conclusively. Once more very avant garde in the best sense: its achievement is ahead of what you hear many others doing, Jarrett leads the way and has done since Facing You to my mind still his greatest achievement, he is in the vanguard. Jarrett has always been like that. His records are a river that always flows.
The standards trio has now been retired and Jarrett does not have a band any more. I was thinking of his old duo albums with Charlie Haden just now and remembering how compelling they were. Some of the tracks here are in a sense ''duos'': and later in the second disc the ''duos'' on 'Answer Me, My Love', 'It's a Lonesome Old Town' and 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' are a ''pas de deux'' with jazz history and 21st century consciousness or if you prefer the individual and collective consciousness of time, past and present in performance united.
'Part II' is very beautiful, its hesitant, exploratory nature again painterly: pleasure drips from it.
The third part is like a dream sequence, a lovely reverie of a secular hymn, while 'Part IV' has a gospelly undertow and Jarrett vocalising in his unique nasal way is getting into it big time as his left hand railroads along.
'Part V' (oh dear someone coughs a little) is not so interesting, a mere bagatelle and Jarrett on the next track tries something new while trilling as he opens and playing with a fluttering sense of quietude that develops. The last track of the first disc is a return to extravagant assertion.
I have heard Jarrett perform 'Answer Me, My Love' live in London and remember being blown away at the time. Jarrett has the Joni Mitchell version of the Winkler-Rauch song in mind. It blows me away all over again here.
The Tobias/Kisco song 'It's A Lonesome Old Town' sent me back to the 1930s Ben Bernie version, Listen how jaunty that is. Jarrett's version is completely different, dark and brooding. Finally what can you say about 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' a fan favourite… and again a winner here.
Jarrett once again has shown what he is renowned for: epic concentration, high wire improvising in front of an audience, real time composition and provides once again a window into his soul and holds a mirror up to life for us all.