Keith Jarrett - The 1960's

Feb 9, 2018

Keith Jarrett
Credit Musopen

Sunday Night Jazz Showcase

Program #197 (February 11 at 8:00 p.m.)

Pianist, composer, and bandleader Keith Jarrett is one of the most prolific, innovative, and iconoclastic musicians to emerge from the late 20th century.

As a pianist (though that is by no means the only instrument he plays), he literally changed the conversation in jazz by introducing an entirely new aesthetic regarding solo improvisation in concert. Though capable of playing in a wide variety of styles, Jarrett is deeply grounded in the jazz tradition.

He has recorded over 80 albums as a leader in jazz and classical music. And he has won the Down Beat Critics Poll as a pianist numerous times, including consecutively between 2001 and 2008.

Jarrett was born May 8, 1945 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. At the age of three he began playing piano. He undertook the study of classical music at age eight, and at 15 he studied formal composition before moving to Boston to study briefly at the Berklee College of Music. Still in his teens, Jarrett intended to further his academic work in Paris before deciding to move to New York in 1964 and become a jazz musician.

He entered the city's vibrant scene by sitting in with veteran and aspiring players at clubs, including the Village Vanguard. His first touring gig was with Art Blakey's New Jazz Messengers, where he remained until 1966.

The lone recording with that band -- which also featured trumpeter Chuck Mangione -- was Buttercorn Lady, recorded live at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. Jarrett joined Charles Lloyd's famed quartet in 1966. That band, which reflected the variety of changes taking place in jazz and popular music in general, achieved global success as both a recording and touring entity.

He left the group in 1968 and issued his first solo recording, Restoration Ruin, on the Vortex label. He played everything on the album including soprano saxophone, harmonica, drums, and guitar in addition to piano; he even sang. The album is mainly considered a curiosity in his catalog because it wasn't a jazz album, but a folk-rock recording. Regardless of how Jarrett regards it today, it stands as a brave undertaking from a young musician and paints an interesting view of his early thoughts in lieu of what he would accomplish later.

Appearing the same year, he recorded Life Between the Exit Signs for Atlantic, where he led a trio whose rhythm section consisted of bassist Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. This group -- later a quartet with the addition of saxophonist Dewey Redman -- would record together for 11 years and attain the status of jazz legend for their dynamic, groundbreaking interplay and improvisation.

(provided by Allmusic)