Jarrett Miniatures

Pianist Keith Jarrett’s quarter-century of trio recordings with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette sustains his reputation as one of music’s most inventive improvisers. But it’s his infrequent solo work, beginning with his 1971 release Facing You, that best displays his improvisational genius. Rio, recorded live in the Brazilian city in April of this year, reflects the 66-year-old keyboardist’s entire canon, a body of work that includes excursions into Bach and Mozart as well as jazz standards. Unlike his early solo recordings with their long, evolving variations on rhythmic and melodic themes, Rio is a collection of 16 miniatures that range across blues, impressionism, contemporary boogie-woogie and the avant-garde. The wide variety of material here, including tango-tinged dances and Middle-Eastern moods, spotlioght the pianist’s wide and ambitious vocabulary. It’s hard to believe that these are spontaneous improvisations, as Jarrett has explained in recent interviews. Even the most modern, formless excursions have a substance that lends shape to their off-beat harmonics and aggressive tempos. Best are the sensitive, emotionally-revealing pieces (Jarrett recently divorced after 30 years of marriage) that develop narratives a short story writer could envy. If he sometimes lacks a way to end his stories—more than a few seem to just tail off—it’s easy to excuse him by the wonderful path each piece has taken. —Cabbage Rabbit

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