© The Financial Times Ltd 2015 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
February 26, 2013 6:03 pm
Keith Jarrett’s solo performances put almost as many demands on audiences as they do on the pianist himself. There are strict rules – no coughing, no photography
(a blessing), no re-admittance – and elaborate rituals of bowing and acknowledgement between each number that reach a climax in drawn-out encores. In other hands, this might be irritating, but it is a process that Jarrett uses to focus the mind. And it works. At this generous, two-set performance, he bared his soul, and immersed a full and spellbound house in a succession of delicate themes, volcanic abstractions and rolling, disjointed boogies.
It began with a maelstrom of splattered counterpoint delivered with a light touch. The pulse firmed up, there were hints of a riff, two-handed rolls and abstract shapes that swirled out of the lower register, with both hands on the go. It was high-energy stuff and ended with a trill, a quick-fire arpeggio and a single-note stop. Two ballads followed. The first was delicately poised over gentle cadences and it morphed to a passionate, flamenco-inflected highlight; the second was a sparse reverie over an elastic pulse.
After a short break – a heavy cold was to blame – a stark tremolo unfolded into momentous panoramas and themes that suggested a storm to come. Then came a country-soul boogie – the bass figure was truncated and, recalling the old blues masters, changed key when the fancy struck – and finally a return to abstraction, but this time jagged and bop-inflected.
In the second set the balance shifted to ballads but a rolling-rhythmed “Summertime”, gospel and a return to angularity provided variety. As before, themes conjured in the moment were rarely reprised and stopped suddenly at Jarrett’s whim. Yet each self-contained piece sustained coherence, even while following the pianist’s wildest fancy. At times he stood, fingers flying in long, arcing runs while his left hand prodded, nagged or thumped out a beat. But elsewhere there were warmly developed cadences and the stark ring of a simple chord or a single note.
It was a terrific performance whose contrasts were sustained through to the rolling rhythms and dazzling lines of the fourth and final encore, a nippy minor blues. Jarrett’s solo performances always concentrate the mind, but tonight’s warm-hearted performance was exceptionally giving.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.