Keith Jarrett calls time on his concert life

The cult pianist, 75, has told the New York Times that he’s unlikly to perform again.

He suffered a pair of strokes in early 2018 that left him partly paralysed down one side.

His work was extensively recorded by his table-tennis partner Manfred Eicher at ECM.

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  • Saw him back in the mid-80s in Boston Symphony Hall. The most bizarre performance I’ve ever attended. I had heard some of his guttural noises on recordings but I had no idea about the virtual piano humping that accompanied them. At one point someone in the crowd took a photo. He immediately stopped playing, stared in the direction of the photo taker for at least five minutes, and then walked offstage. I don’t believe I ever listened to another note he played.

  • One of Jarrett’s trademarks is his frequent, loud vocalizations, similar to those of Glenn Gould. Jarrett is also physically active while playing. These behaviors occur in his jazz and improvised solo performances, but are for the most part absent whenever he plays classical repertory. Jarrett has noted his vocalizations are based on involvement, not content, and are more of an interaction than a reaction. Jarrett is extremely intolerant of audience noise, especially during solo improvised performances. His Bach is as good as any great classical pianists. So is his Mozart, as you can hear here, in the last movement of the A Major Concerto. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-x620NJvWw

    • His Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues are also magnificent.

      I’m looking forward to the release of his Budapest Concert album, based on his comments in the NY Times article.

      It’s very sad that it is his left hand that is impaired, as right-hand-only pianism doesn’t work so well. Perhaps he can turn to composing. I wish him well; at his best, he was transcendent.

    • This is boring student playing, with deliberate slow tempi, directionless phrasing, he begins trills on the written note instead of starting from the note above, etc. Surely Eleanor Sokoloff taught him better than this. Still, one can admire him for his devotion to classical repertoire.

  • Only one of the most influential and beloved pianists alive, but why would we expect anything other than casual dismissal from the Slippedisc intelligentsia? Jarrett’s albums and performances have been a soundtrack to many peoples lives for generations, supporting us through ups and downs and providing continual inspiration, excitement, contemplation, relaxation, and a non-stop display of invention and deep communion with the art of jazz (and classical music). His musical communication with the late Peacock and the great DeJohnette was a modern marvel. Sure, his antics have often been a distraction, but only for those who “don’t get it”. For the audiences who do, they are often greatly rewarded with experiences and memories that have lasted a lifetime. Read comments on the Times article or elsewhere. I count this news as an extremely sad turn for a genius. The great Ahmad Jamal has continued to record and perform into his 90s… What music we will miss from Keith from now on!

    • Yesss 100% agree! Saw him for the last time in Chicago Theater in end of 2017 or was it beginning of 2018…? If I had known it was the last time……… I love him

    • Keith Jarrett is simply excellent. As a kid, I saw him play on SNL and was simply awestruck by his performance. I love his “Still Live” recording and I’m forever indebted to Keith, the late Gary P, and Jack for all of the beautiful inspiration they gave for so long.
      Thanks Keith Jarrett!

  • The last paragraph is a real heartbreaker:

    “I can only play with my right hand, and it’s not convincing me anymore,” Mr. Jarrett said. “I even have dreams where I am as messed up as I really am — so I’ve found myself trying to play in my dreams, but it’s just like real life.”

  • I am devastated by this news. I have most of Keith Jarrett’s albums. I have played “My Song” a tune he has done several versions of. I love the one from Berlin. The Koln Concert was electrifying and ground breaking. Currently I am learning his version of “Country” played for Marian Macpartland. The version played with his combo I probably have listened to a 1000 times. Be well Keith and thank you for your extraordinary body of work.

  • “Cult pianist”? I think not, Norman.
    Jarrett is truly one of the great jazz (and classical) pianists. I’m very sorry to hear about his strokes, and I wish him nothing but the best going forward.
    (To Daniel Poulin, Couperin, and Peter San Diego: right on!)

  • always felt that he was the first to proclaim himself a prodigy or genius. the only vocal mannerisms that i can accept are from glenn gould as his playing makes up for it, unlike jarrett who just comes off as plain corny.

  • I’ve attended a lot of concerts and hearing Keith Jarrett live ranks right at the top of my best memories. I wish him well and hope that he recovers enough to enjoy the rest of his life, he can surely take solace in the joy he has given to those who listen to music around the world.

  • An immense talent. Like so many others (Keith Emerson, Glenn Gould….), a glittering career accompanied by considerable unnecessary suffering due to abysmal posture at the instrument. Not to be emulated…

  • I can be said to be a Keith Jarrett “groupee”. Discovering him 1974 via the first iconic “Bremen Lausanne Concerts” then the 1975 “Koln Concert” and then the EXTRAORDINARY “Arbour Zena” Tour at UCLA Royce Hall, I was part of the Jarrett phenomenon. May his recorded Genius and Legacy continue to inspire us and future generations to come

  • I’ve read some comments. I like Keith and his playing. I wouldn’t say he plays Bach as well as Gould or Schiff, even without me hearing him play it. I see a logic to that prediction. I think the extra stuff in his performances is unusual, but not a bad thing. Walking out from playing is odd, but if someone distracted a pianist as a consequence of them leaving their mobile switched on, that could warrant walking off. You would have had to have witnessed the actual distraction that stopped the concert mentioned. Very sad about his strokes. Hope his mood is Okay. Sviatoslav Richter had a pitch problem late in life. It prevented him from playing. He spend his last few years in a state of depression. Interesting that this thread is headed by the description “cult” : cult pianist. Regarding Keith, I think the clue is in that word when writing comments.

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