Keith Jarrett

Released October, 2009

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2009




At the end of 2008, Keith Jarrett added two concerts to his schedule at short notice – one at Paris’s Salle Pleyel (November 26), one at London’s Royal Festival Hall (December 1). The music on “Testament” is from these concerts. Their range is compendious, Jarrett’s improvisational imagination continually uncovering new forms, in a music stirred by powerful emotions. In his liner notes, the pianist is forthright about the personal circumstances promoting a need to lose himself in the work once more.
He also reminds the reader/listener that “it is not natural to sit at a piano, bring no material, clear your mind completely of musical ideas and play something that is of lasting value and brand new.” This, however, has been the history and substance of the solo concerts since Jarrett initiated them, almost forty years ago. Over time their connection to ‘jazz’ has often become tenuous, yet Jarrett’s solo concerts, with the foregrounding of melody and the continual building, and relinquishing, of structure, are also removed from “free improvisation” as a genre.  Jarrett’s solo work is effectively its own idiom, and has been subject to periodic revisions by the pianist. “In the early part of this decade, I tried to bring the format back: starting from nothing and building a universe.”
Since the “Radiance” album and the “Tokyo Solo” DVD of 2002 Jarrett has been adjusting the flow of the work, more often working with shorter blocks of material. “I continued to find a wealth of music inside this open format, stopping whenever the music told me to.”  This approach distinguished “The Carnegie Hall Concert” (2006), and it is most effectively deployed in “Testament”, where the strongly-contrasting elements of the sections of the Paris concert in particular have the logic of a spontaneously-composed suite. The nerves-bared London performance (the first UK solo show in 18 years) is different again: “The concert went on and, though the beginning was a dark, searching, multi-tonal melodic triumph, by the end it somehow became a throbbing, never-to-be-repeated pulsing rock band of a concert (unless it was a church service, in which case, Hallelujah!).”
In the end, the improviser does what must be done. As Keith Jarrett said, a long time ago, “If you’re a rock climber, once you’re halfway up the face of the cliff, you have to keep moving, you have to keep going somewhere. And that’s what I do, I find a way.”
These days, however, Jarrett is rationing the number of ascents: there have been less than thirty solo concerts in the last decade, making “Testament” a special event indeed.

Track Listing:

1. Part I (Keith Jarrett) 13:47

2. Part II (Keith Jarrett) 10:35

3. Part III (Keith Jarrett) 7:05

4. Part IV (Keith Jarrett) 5:33

5. Part V (Keith Jarrett) 8:45

6. Part VI (Keith Jarrett) 6:30

7. Part VII (Keith Jarrett) 6:58

8. Part VIII (Keith Jarrett) 10:10

Disc 2

1. Part I (Keith Jarrett) 11:08

2. Part II (Keith Jarrett) 8:10

3. Part III (Keith Jarrett) 6:50

4. Part IV (Keith Jarrett) 5:58

5. Part V (Keith Jarrett) 10:34

6. Part VI (Keith Jarrett) 6:52

Disc 3

1. Part VII (Keith Jarrett) 8:59

2. Part VIII (Keith Jarrett) 8:00

3. Part IX (Keith Jarrett) 3:55

4. Part X (Keith Jarrett) 5:35

5. Part XI (Keith Jarrett) 8:25

6. Part XII (Keith Jarrett) 8:29


Keith Jarrett: piano

Recorded in concert, November 28, 2008 at Salle Pleyel, Paris, and December 1, 2008 at Royal Festival Hall, London

Producer: Keith Jarrett
Engineer: Martin Pearson

Executive-Producer: Manfred Eicher


Keith Jarrett is one of a handful of artists in jazz who gives evidence of almost continuous artistic growth, refining and improving not only his approach to the piano in terms of touch but to his melodic and harmonic conception as well. Throughout he has striven to exile cliché and gratuitous gesture so that his solo discography from Facing You in 1972 to this, quite possibly the finest representation of his solo art to date, is one of a style, conception and approach continually evolving. For example, he is critical of his touch on Köln Concert, well aware that through his exacting process of self examination and self improvement it is now something that is admired and even envied by the piano playing fraternity in jazz. What Radiance (2002) and The Carnegie Hall Concert (2006) made plain was that he was past the long, uninterrupted solo improvisation seeking instead spontaneously conceived episodes that were sufficient in themselves, shorter blocks of material that said everything Jarrett wished to say in the moment. If this rigorous self-editing resulted in episodes of five or 15 minutes, so be it. With Testament – a three CD set of his concerts at Salle Pleyel in Paris and the Royal Festival Hall in London at the end of last year – the creation of these episodes has become more refined, and also more expansive with Jarrett inclined to draw on a wide range of musical inspiration rather than the more focused creation of a single mood. This approach is best illustrated by the London concert, where over 12 musical episodes Jarrett moves from an introspective, requiem-like opening to moods that rock with such exuberance it delighted his audience. It is a fascinating document of what those who were present on 1 December last year say was an occasion charged with electricity, with Jarrett delivering at the very top of his form.

Stuart Nicholson (Jazzwise)