As a longtime fan of idiosyncratic jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, I would have been disappointed if I'd seen him perform without reaming out at least one audience member. And I was not disappointed.
Last night Jarrett made one of his rare appearances at LA's Disney Hall, and this show was devoted to solo improvisation -- pure Keith, unalloyed. He began the performance with a strange, gentle kind of sweeping his hands along the extremes of the keyboard -- my friend said he was coaxing ghosts from the piano. And many ghosts there were -- in the course of the show, he would summon French impressionist Erik Satie, soul-jazz pioneer Horace Silver and everything in between.
Because Jarrett's fame rests in part on extended workouts (freakouts?) on albums like the best-selling The Koln Concert, I was surprised his pieces were relatively short -- mostly ballads and blues which involves improvisatory fights or grooves, but were brought to a fairly crisp conclusion. From first track to last, I was knocked out. HERE is the review, just up, by the LATimes' Chris Barton.
But let's get back to the guy's quirks. He's known for standing up and down while he played, as well as moaning/humming in a vaguely Monk/Gould kinda way. The fact that three of the greatest pianists in modern history do this makes me think there's something to it: He seemed truly possessed.
Jarrett's anger and intolerance toward audience noise is a bit harder to take -- he's passed out cough drops at winter concerts and famously berated paying customers for coughing. But you know, there was way too much coughing last night. "There's some kind of duel going on out there," he said of the coughers.
And when a woman walked away from her seat, in high heels, between songs, he paused, and offered,
" Was that a horse?" There were also a few Luddite rants about the importance of things that don't change -- the piano for instance.
But you've not lived until you've seen Jarrett stand up and single out a man in the fourth row for using a flash -- "you've screwed up other people's experience!" he scolded -- and then sit down and play a tender version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Weirdly, in the audience a few rows in front of me was a Jarrett fan I consider one of the most dangerous men in America -- Kenny G. Was I tempted to run by him, pull out my corkscrew and end this frizzy-haired imp's reign of terror? Of course.
But I was so stunned to think that our tastes -- fairly disparate, I'll guess -- come together in the music of this difficult and astounding musician that all I could summon was a strange sense of awe.