November 3, 2006
Salle Pleyel (Paris)

A Non-Classical, Non-Berlin Review

Keith Jarrett plays one of his rare solo concerts in Paris


Solo Concert


Keith Jarrett - Piano

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A Non-Classical, Non-Berlin Review

Keith Jarrett plays one of his rare solo concerts in Paris

by Nancy Chapple / Photos from the DVD Tokyo Solo 2002

Keith Jarrett

The audience for the second of Keith Jarrett's two consecutive solo concerts in the newly refurbished Salle Pleyel knew why they were there. "Groupies", young and old, make a point of travelling to Keith's concerts wherever they may be. A pan-European audience filled the hall, with at least equal contingents of Germans and Brits who'd made the trip for the concert and "local" French listeners. Looking around the hall, we could observe different ways of listening, moving with the music, entering into a personal trance. But all were joined in the driving desire to experience a great Keith Jarrett concert.

The editor-in-chief and the webmaster of Klassik-in-Berlin travelled all the way from London and Berlin respectively to Paris for the evening. And that although it fits into neither the Berlin nor the classical music framework!

My own vantage point will always be classical music, since that's what I trained in professionally. Keith can evince a huge range of colors and tones from the piano. He's a master of sound - hard sounds, soft sounds. Which is why someone of my background pays him so much attention. Were he only able to improvise, I would admire the talent as one I simply don't possess, but wouldn't think of him in the same breath as other pianists. But since he has mastered his instrument and what it can do, he mesmerised me equally with the content and with his style.

His program alternated among several different categories of pieces. The type least easily accessible but perhaps the most interesting he described in the 2005 video The Art of Improvisation: what the left and right hands are playing is equally important. The sounds sometimes resemble the fast, even passages in the upper registers of virtuosic Ravel and Debussy works, at other times their origins are more difficult to place. Then there are very rhythmically driven pieces where a low note in the left hand provides the bass and the right hand is responsible for both harmony and melody. Some pieces sounded more "classical", with independent voices occasionally imitating each other canonically. And then there were what may have been jazz standards or jazzed-up compositions - without real beginning or end, where the melody leads the harmony where it needs to go - and where, continuously and throughout, Keith produces a rich, velvety, shimmery piano sound.

Keith Jarrett

He is eccentric, and he probably feels he has earned the right to be so. He stamps his feet standing up at the keyboard in a position that must be difficult to maintain physically. He sings and hums along loudly but not very tonefully in a kind of a trance. And starting with the third piece he put on sunglasses, announcing, "I have to tell my wife that they were here all along," implying he must have been looking to wear them for the entire concert. At the end it may have been that someone took a photo, though we didn't observe that from our seats in the third row. But at any rate, he reacted aggressively: "OK, now is the moment for all of you to take my picture. Now!" At that moment no one did, strangely enough. He did play two encores for us, but also clearly communicated how grudgingly he was doing so, first flinging the towel he used to dry off between many of the numbers across the stage and then continuing onwards past it to sit down and play another of his lyrical numbers.

What most fascinates me is: what has Keith planned before he goes on stage? What just grows spontaneously? Is the order of pieces or moods clear beforehand? How does he make decisions about the individual shape of what he's playing and the overall arch of the evening? It appeared that microphones were picking up the entire evening's musical production - and we wouldn't be surprised if the riveting, overwhelming night were to appear on CD before long.