Friday, 25 May 2018

Keith Jarrett - La Scala (1997)

Jazz Piano Friday again, and why not, when it comes to one of Keith Jarrett's grandest statements in all of his solo concert history.  The 44 minutes of the first improv, 27 minutes of the second improv and a sweet little Over The Rainbow encore on the night of 13 February 1995 were certainly enough to move a seasoned conductor's assistant to tears, as Jarrett relates.  Whether that sleevenote comes across as an endearing anecdote about the power of music, or a hilariously self-important bit of pomposity from an artist who would become ever more notorious for them, largely depends on what mood it catches me in.

The music from this performance in Milan's great opera house, however, never fails to move me.  After about 15 minutes of sedate beauty, Jarrett appears to hit a wall to some listeners' ears, but the tentative mid-section of La Scala Part 1 works just fine for me as a refreshingly minimal interlude that gradually builds in ritualistic intensity.  It then falls back again before finally bursting into the stream of notes that will build up the triumphant final five minutes (remind anyone of Köln Pt. I?).

La Scala Part 2 finds Jarrett suitably re-energised to take off on a more knotty, abstract flight.  Round about the halfway mark, this coalesces into a more melodic, flowing, cruising altitude.  Jarrett then settles down to ten minutes of music that must rank among the most wondrous ever to have come from the fingers of this, or any other pianist (final bit of crazy notwithstanding).  As the cherry on the top of this, we get five minutes of Over The Rainbow that would melt the hardest of hearts.  Agelessly beautiful stuff.
outer sleeve cover


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