Thoughts? Bear in mind that Keith Jarrett is the ultimate in solo jazz improviser piano performance so that is the level we are at and star ratings, 5 as it happens, tell you little. It is a classic but does not seem so at first.
Jarrett has a habit of making classic solo albums. Way back the two main candidates are Facing You (1972) and The Köln Concert (1975). But there are a number of others in Jarrett's vast discography that tease at coming close or can be considered as good. For example 2018's La Fenice and most relevantly here the excellent Budapest Concert given that it was recorded around the same time as Bordeaux Concert which was recorded at the Bordeaux national opera house on 6 July 2016 the same month as Budapest Concert. Also of relevance here is the Munich 2016.
The third track here already streaming was clearly well-chosen as it is one of the album's very best. The dark and turbulent opening tracks are by contrast less so and constitute a very serious start to the album. They need returning to as a first listen won't be enough to take these in.
The very long opener (at more than 12 minutes) separates the sheep from the goats and demands serious attention. It is highly abstract, intense and yet leaves you as a listener hanging in the air waiting for some sort of sense of completion which you never get. If the whole album had been like this it would be brutally unforgiving.
But when you get to the third track there is a pivotal moment of bliss for the first time maybe because of the concision, maybe because of the clarity of expression. With Jarrett creative invention in the moment is part of the process. But there is that spell too that is unique to what he achieves so often. Such weight in the softness paradoxically fills the scales.
Part IV with the trademark vocalised sighs and moans verge on orgasmic release while the fifth part is like a shuffling of a deck of cards, a constant friction in the staccato stabs and thrusts. Some of the joy of the album lies in the heightened contrasts and in Part VI you get a balladic mood that seems so classically correct (partly because in execution it is) but also it too has a simplicity of melody. It's even better than the third part, maybe somebody will write lyrics to VI one day. It just seems to be a standard in the making one that somehow banishes sentimentality as far as it can but in no way sneers at it in any way and can accommodate the simpler harmonies and builds them into a palace of enchantment designed wholly by Jarrett.
Part VII continues in more wistful vein and then VIII becomes bluesy, a statement chug and swinging gait to the left hand motion while IX verges on being a spiritual. X has a routine at the beginning that is like bell ringers in a round, the joy Jarrett seems to be conjuring leaping all around him as he magnifies the expression. XI has an Iberian feel and goes very slow and low towards the place where time meets silence, another wondrous moment here. The melodic riches come thick and fast as the album moves to a close and you wonder how on earth he will end this performance. XII seems an anti-climax but XIII again echoing XI has something of even an Andalusian mournfulness to it, audible moans of ecstasy from the master and all. You think of Miles here and reach for Sketches of Spain for later listening. Extraordinary.
Out on 30 September