in one ear…

Time to ‘fess up: I don’t get Keith Jarrett.

I thought I did – one Saturday night in the 70s, I went to the local discount store and bought a copy of Bremen/Lausanne, the three record solo concert that was a gentle introduction to jazz for a lot of people.

(Aside: can you imagine going to the local Target or WalMart today and picking up a jazz album? It’s not like jazz was popular back then either, but there was always a rack or two with some Miles, some Ellington and a smattering of the new stuff. )

Anyway, I really liked Bremen/Lausanne, just as I (and a few million other people) liked the follow up Koln Concert, which made Jarrett a star.

30 years down the road and I have a pile of Jarrett cds, including the new one, Jasmine, an album of duets with bassist Charlie Haden. But even though I faithfully buy each new album, (well, a lot of them – you could go broke trying to keep up with the trio recordings) and I can hear them perfectly fine as background music, I just can’t listen to them.

I really try – at home, in the car, at work – to engage Jarrett, but after a few minutes I find myself forgetting to pay attention.

Of course I’m not a musician, but I think there’s less going on here than meets the ear. The music sounds simple, but not “I cut away all the fat and all that’s left is pure inspiration and musicianship” simple. It’s more like cocktail piano simple, in that the notes, the lines don’t hold much in the way of surprises. It’s as if he’s trying to reassure us that nothing untoward is happening here. It isn’t.

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