Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Keith Jarrett: Koln and the ECM Legacy

Keith Jarrett (piano, b. 1945)
The Koln Concert (ECM; 1975)

2009 marked the 40th anniversary of ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) Records, the eclectic and ethereal label from Munchen, Germany. The label exemplifies the beauty of performance and production. For days I have been trying to figure out my top ten ECM albums but it was getting too difficult and I thought it might end up looking more pompous than insightful. So I thought I would stick with one of the ECM albums I come back to time and time again. The one that always conjures up a deep emotional response. Keith Jarrett The Koln Concert (ECM) is a haunting and emotionally stark recording. Keith Jarrett is probably the most important pianist of the last 50 years.

The Koln Concert is a significant moment for ECM as the album would go on to sell millions. While a lot of the history behind this release talks about how the piano is horrible and not in tune, I have always felt this album shows the delicacy and reflectiveness of Keith Jarrett's compositions. Jarrett sounds like the great classical composers of Shostakovitch, Bach and even Schoenberg.

From the first and second movements, I have always been moved - they move beautifully up and down the scale like speed racing your friends on bikes all the way home before dinner. While the entire concert is a study in improvisation, the third and fourth movements show how that improvisation can be alluring and angelic and paint a lasting memory on the psyche for years to come. To me this is the statement record for Keith Jarrett. This is the album that say Keith Jarrett has now stepped into the same pantheon as Miles, Coltrane, Monk, Powell, Gillespie, et al.

I said a few weeks ago that I had been listening to The Vienna Concert quite regularly but I have always loved The Koln Concert for how it leaves an indelible mark for the love of jazz in your ears, heart and mind. Here's to ECM's 40 anniversary and the lush genius of Keith Jarrett's The Koln Concert.

Small bit of trivia: Do you know the very first ECM album released?

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