Keith Jarrett berates a German audience

Keith Jarrett berates a German audience


norman lebrecht

July 18, 2016

They didn’t cough in Munich. The audience at the Philharmonie had been warned that the great jazz pianist was sensitive to interruptions of any kind. They held their breaths and their bladders until the very end.

Then, during the applause, someone in the public flashed a photograph.

The mood turned in an instant. ‘Why did you come?’ he demanded.

And stormed off.

Report here (auf Deutsch).

keith jarrett ecm

photo:  Daniela Yohannes/ECM Records


  • Peter says:

    He shouldn’t perform for a big audience commercially then. There is bo justification for rude behavior, on both sides.
    The music industry is a cynical meat grinder. Pushing artists with mental conditiins on stage regularly for profit.

  • Frederick West says:

    He does have form in this respect and I have some sympathy for his expectations. Nevertheless, it seems that he doesn’t apply his own demands upon himself in them any recordings he has issued which are spoilt by his persistent exhalations and gruntings.
    One was so badly marred I threw it in the bin, it was beyond recycling.
    I should point out that I am a Jarrett fan but his over the top reactions have become tiresome.


      I so agree- his hell: a strobe light on the piano to pop when he makes his noises and starts spasms.

    • Bruce says:

      I have to agree. I have a few of his recordings — love his playing, but it’s hard to listen to them. It’s like you’re sitting next to some guy who won’t stop singing/moaning/grunting along. And it’s like knowing that every concert you go to, you’re going to be sitting next to the same guy.

      That being said, taking a flash photo in a venue like this is just stupid. Your stupid little flash is not going to make a difference, except to light up the back of the head of the person in front of you, and will only serve to distract (and/or infuriate) the artist. And, as the article says, the photos are going to be bad: shaky, blurry, and from too far away.

      A note from personal experience: camera flashes from the audience are very distracting when you’re onstage. And the little red light that comes on when you’re “surreptitiously” recording is EXTREMELY visible to the musicians. Learn to use your phone/camera settings so that it doesn’t set off the flash automatically. Also learn to shut off the cute-but-very-noticeable “camera sound” every time you take a picture. The performers can’t hear it, but your neighbors can.

      Keith Jarrett being a crazy diva is not news to anyone. The person who took the picture is an idiot. (Or at least, they were an idiot for that moment.)

    • Greg says:

      Agreed. I saw him live in Symphony Hall in Boston about 30 years ago and found his grunting, gyrations, and piano humping about as offensive as he finds crowd noise and flash photography. He stopped at one point to glare at someone in the audience. He probably stared at them for a full minute. I don’t recall their offense, but KJ struck me as a total prima donna jerk. I have not heard him play since that night and continue to have no desire to.

  • Max Grimm says:

    Given your profound affection for Vienna, Norman, I’m a bit surprised we didn’t see ‘Keith Jarrett Berates An Austrian Audience‘ more than a week ago.
    Two concertgoers incurred the wrath of the good Mr. Jarrett when they violated his No-Photo-Rule before the start of the concert, prompting him to refuse to play even a single note until both culprits had left the hall (although he graciously compromised and began playing after only one person departed the hall).

  • Doug says:

    These so-called “artists” and the sycophants that support the mentality “you can do nothing wrong have become absolutely tiresome.

  • Peter says:

    He is mentally ill. Pushing him on stage for profit is not better than purposefully watching a blind person running into a wall. Sick world.

    • Sue says:

      Oh, I don’t know; you could always get David Helfgott!! Gyrations, ramblings, incoherence – but let’s talk about the man, not the music.

      • Peter says:

        You can not separate the man from the music, that would be very inhumane.
        That separation is exactly what happens, for profit he is objectified, person subjugated to profit making potential. And he plays along of course. If you basically hate performing in front of people, then why do it? Isn’t that just some well camouflaged form of prostitution?

        • Holly Golightly says:

          Disagree. You most certainly can separate the man from the music. Richard Wagner was a very unpleasant human being – not so his music.

  • Mark Morrison says:

    Two words: drama queen.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    I for one side with Jarrett on this. He’s an artist playing in a country who’s culture should know better than to treat this like some Beyonce concert. Jarrett creates true art, and should be given due respect for his travails. This incident only proves that it is not only America who’s cultural standards and manners concerning concert etiquette have declined considerably over the generation. European audiences are also full of mostly uneducated barbarians!

    • jn says:

      I agree with Jarrett, I regularly go to the philharmonic, plays and broadway shows etc.

      they ask of the audience the same thing “no photographs” and no one does.

      I think people know his reputation and do it on purpose to piss him off!

    • Peter says:

      True art is a tautology. Art is just art. Unless you are also breathing true air. And when you take a shower then with true water. And when eating a steak then a true steak.
      If it’s not true then its not art. Keith Jarret plays the piano commercially. Its also art. No reason to engage in hyperbole. His current creations are only a sad shadow of his former self.

  • Dave T says:

    Taking photos before or certainly during a performance are utterly unacceptable. But photos AFTER the music has finished is really no big deal. The only concentration of the artist that it could throw off is their decision as to what to grab from the buffet.

    How does Jarrett feel about blinking traffic lights and the flashing timer on the coffee maker? I wouldn’t want to be that guy.

  • Bennie says:

    Another moron who needs to be reminded that, no matter how right or great he/she is, any performer need us the audience way more than we need him/her

  • Steve says:

    How is there so little respect for the artist given by some of these commenters? I simply don’t understand: he is onstage presenting somethings intensely personal and highly emotional and his request is that an audience be reverent? For shame that posters with no artistic understanding complain about KJ’s own idiosyncratic noises: unfortunately, you show yourself ignorant and deaf to great music listening to his Live at the Blue Note albums with a pianist acquaintance changed forever how I hear great piano playing. I love that this artist requires something from the audience above simply paying a ticket price: THIS should be the norm, not the exception. Keep going to your paint-by-numbers events, though, if this pleases you – pro wrestling may be just your cup of tea.

  • Frederick West says:

    I’ve no problem with Jarrett as a musician at all, he provides a level of insight, inventiveness and sheer poetry that few others can get anywhere near. He has been one of the few who have elevated jazz to a higher plane and given it some respect, which it was sorely in need of. He demands the highest standards of himself and his audience and I would certainly agree that happy snappers are just plain ignorant.
    However, I’d question whether his requirement for ‘reverence’ is a little over the top. It seems this has turned more and more into a demand for absolute submission to his demands. He needs to establish a more relaxed rapport. And I would repeat the fact that many of his recordings are sabotaged by extraneous noises more often heard on a tennis court. He’s not the only culprit, Oscar Peterson was another audible grunter and many others have their exhalations, humming and singing along preserved forever, especially so in the classical recorded media. Again, it’s a question of balance and one would have thought that a bespoke and we’ll run company like ECM might have found a way around this. I believe that the notoriously noisy Peter Cropper of the Lindsay String Quartet wore some sort of mask for his ASV recordings to temper some of his emotional contributions. There are ways and means. Or are Jarrett’s unmusical contributions merely an affectation?
    Peterson’s weren’t – you can clearly hear him humming the musical line he is playing, at least he was in tune with himself.
    At the end of it yes, Jarrett is a phenomenon. But does that mean we all have to bow down and worship? I think not.

  • Greg Hlatky says:

    Artistic temper tantrums: another reason never to attend a live performance.

  • Sue says:

    Even the great Carlos Kleiber was given to temper tantrums and walk-outs!! He behaved like a prima donna but people just couldn’t get enough of him. In those earlier years he was treated like a rock star and quite justifiably, IMO. And, as if it couldn’t get any better, he was strikingly handsome and aristocratic of bearing.

    So, we all willingly put up with quite a lot if we love the artist.

    • Peter says:

      I’m not aware of Carlos Kleiber walking out in the concert with audience ever. Where and when was that? Yes we put up with a lot of nonsense, if the artist is a genius and makes us feel great, but there must be limits. Also psychopaths and people with mental conditions should not be abused for profit making purposes.

      • Sue says:

        Walk-outs of rehearsals, getting into car and heading home during a “10 minute break”, and failing to fulfill his conducting obligations, but not an actual concert – even though he came dangerously close (house lights out, people screaming at him behind closed dressing-room door to come out and conduct). I’m researching this wonderful man for 2 upcoming lectures. What a fascinating human being. And, you know, he had only the barest grasp of the piano – in short, he was a rare breed of conductor who was not a performing musician himself. (I think this actually accounts for some of his insecurities, frankly.)


    It seems to me that each concert he does is different. He feels the music and each note is painfully being evoked
    From his soul, I think I would like it to be. Quiet also.