American pianist Keith Jarrett, considered by many to be a genius, is among the most creative musicians working in contemporary jazz. He burst onto the scene in the early 1960s, first with Charles Lloyd and then with Miles Davis.
He went on to launch a prolific solo career marked by several phases and rich collaborations. Jarrett's improvisational solo concerts from the 1970s are widely viewed as classics. He has also made scores of straight-up jazz recordings with his trio as well as classical recordings. Keith Jarrett enjoys a virtual cult following all over the world.
Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1945, Keith Jarrett was a child prodigy who began playing piano at age three and gave his first recital at age seven, performing a classical repertoire as well as his own compositions.
After studying music at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, he moved to the Big Apple to launch his career. In the mid-1960s, after a stint with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, he joined the very popular Charles Lloyd Quintet. Around the same time, he formed his first trio with Charlie Haden on double bass and Paul Motian on drums.
In the early 1970s, Jarrett joined the impressive ensemble led by Miles Davis. With Jarrett at the electric piano and on organ, the group went on to explore bold new perspectives in jazz fusion.
Bucking the trend
After working with Miles, Jarrett set about writing a new page in music history. Bucking the trend toward all things electric, he returned to the acoustic piano, even if it meant being perceived as a purist. Ironically, at a time when other artists were flirting with rock using a surfeit of technology, his acoustic approach would prove to be more modern and more successful.
Jarrett's approach culminated in his solo piano works from the 1970s. As well as draw universal praise, the improvisational CDs and concerts from this period-from Facing You to the Köln Concert-were nothing short of crowning achievements in music. Period.
This was a prolific period for Jarrett, who was working with two ensembles at the time. As well as play with Haden and Motian (with Dewey Redman eventually joining the group), he developed what was called his "European group" featuring Scandinavian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The latter added a different melodic signature to Jarrett's inimitable playing style.
After pushing back the frontiers of jazz, Jarrett once again turned his attention to classical music, composing works for the Südfunk, Stuttgart and Syracuse orchestral ensembles.
On the heels of a few memorable solo concerts in Montreal, Keith Jarrett made his debut visit to the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in 1987.
Montreal audiences will never forget the encore Jarrett gave at salle Wilfrid-Pelletier - an interpretation of a prelude by Bach capping off a tumultuous evening that saw the pianist take exception to some flu-ridden audience members and to photographers and philistines alike...
And so, in 1987, Jarrett marked a return to the city with his popular trio, featuring Jack DeJohnette on drums and Gary Peacock on bass. The trio had been together for four years. Two Standards albums (volumes 1 and 2), released on the ECM label in 1983, were followed two years later by Standards Live, also an ECM recording showcasing classics composed decades earlier.
The trio had been together for four years. Two Standards albums (volumes 1 and 2), released on the ECM label in 1983, were followed two years later by Standards Live, also an ECM recording showcasing classics composed decades earlier.
In 1990, Keith Jarrett returned to the Festival as a solo artist, performing a program peppered with "standards." The solo standards program was offered only in two other cities worldwide.
A remarquable trio
On each of his subsequent visits, however, Jarrett played alongside bandmates Peacock and DeJohnette, forming what many hailed as the top trio of the 1980s.
Jarrett's unique performance style-complete with nasal vocalizations, swaying and an almost trance-like state-is like that of no one else. Peacock and DeJohnette pick up and maintain the tempo with a spirit of adventure and empathy not seen since the glory days with Miles Davis.
In the mid-1990s, the pianist was forced to slow down his fast paced career due to serious health problems. The diagnostic: chronic fatigue.Jarrett eventually recovered and, in 2004, he marked the 25th anniversary of the Festival by performing with his Standards Trio. That a musician of his stature should headline this very special edition was only fitting.
In 2010, the pianist offered Jasmine, an album recorded with double bassist Charlie Haden. The same year, he returned to the Festival, playing alongside Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette.
Rio, a two-disc solo concert recording, came out in 2011.