Keith Jarrett is a big reason why I have devoted my life to playing the piano.
So it was a shock to read in the NY Times about the stroke he had two years ago which left him partially paralyzed and unable to use his left hand. He may never be able to play piano again with his two hands.
Perhaps you read it too:
Keith Jarrett Confronts a Future Without the Piano
I found this news to be sad and shocking. And while reflecting upon it during the past few days, it’s become very sobering as well.
Sobering because we take so many things for granted. If I can play piano today, I take it for granted that I’ll be able to play again tomorrow. And for ever. But hearing Jarrett speak about his condition woke me up to the fact that I need to fully appreciate every moment I have with this wonderous instrument. Every moment is precious, and I have the possibility of going so much farther and deeper with my music.
Jarrett himself is proof of how deep we can go with our music, and he’s been my main inspiration since I first heard his Köln Concert when I was 15 years old.
You mean it’s possible to sit down at the piano, without any sheet music or predetermined arrangement, and simply improvise???
A resounding YES!!! (Answered Keith.)
Over the years I had the privilege of hearing Jarrett in concert on four occasions. Once when he played solo at Lincoln Center, once with his trio at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, and at two Carnegie Hall solo concerts. One of these Carnegie Hall concerts was released as his (what else?) Carnegie Hall Concert, and his words at the other (in 2015) were quoted in the NY Times article. At that concert, he walked over to the microphone at one point and thanked the audience for being there. He said “A lot of people think that I don’t like audiences. But the truth is… I love you guys.” Then he pointed towards the piano and said, “Do you think I play this well at home?”
Jarrett was telling us that we were a big part of the music he was playing. He needed us there in order to go as deep as he went.
And yes, the music was extraordinary. One aspect of his playing which I’ve never read about is that in the solo concerts, which were unamplified, I could hear three distinct layers of sound coming from his piano. I don’t mean “bass/ midrange/treble.” Rather, it was like an ocean of sound with clear layers of “murky,” “normal,” and “overtones,” or something along those lines. It really defies description, just like his music itself.
Last night I was feeling tired after a long day. But I sat down anyway and played all 15 Bach 2-Part Inventions. And I savored every note.
I wish Mr. Jarrett the very best with his condition. And, along with much of the musical world, I thank him for everything his music and his example have given us.
I wish you the very best as well.
Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You'll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration
Leave A Comment