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Keith Jarrett: Bordeaux Concert. A fearless final performance / The Guardian

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The master of solo-piano improvisation proved his spontaneous alchemy was as mesmerising as ever in this 2016 performance

Bordeaux Concert documents a solo performance, the last that Keith Jarrett would give in France, at the Auditorium de l'Opéra National de Bordeaux on July 6, 2016, and finds the pianist at a creative high point.

Each of Jarrett’s 2016 solo piano concerts had its own strikingly distinct character, and in Bordeaux – although the music would progress through many changing moods – the lyrical impulse was to the fore. In the course of this improvised thirteen-part suite, many quiet discoveries are made. There is a touching freshness to the music as a whole, a feeling of intimate communication shared with the 1400 attentive listeners in the hall. This time there is no recourse to standard tunes to round out the performance; the arc of spontaneously composed and often intensely melodic music is satisfyingly complete in itself. In the later concerts part of Jarrett’s achievement as an improviser has been the way in which he has not only channeled the music in its moment-to-moment emergence but implied a sense of larger structure as he balances its episodes and atmospheres.

Bordeaux’s community of listeners had long been aware of Jarrett’s music. The Nouvelle-Aquitaine capital was one of the first European cities where Jarrett presented his music, as early as 1970 - with his trio, then, with Gus Nemeth and Aldo Romano. He was back in the early 1990s, with the ‘Standards’ trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette. The July 2016 concert, however, was his only solo performance in the city (made possible via the Jazz and Wine Bordeaux Festival and its director, Jean-Jacques Quesada.)

The Guardian's John Fordham writes…In 1975, an idiosyncratic musical odyssey called The Köln Concert became the unlikeliest of multimillion-sellers. On that album, Keith Jarrett revealed how an unplanned, unplugged and uncommercial private meditation between just him and a traditional piano could mesmerise listeners all over the world. Jarrett has also played plenty of classical music and ensemble jazz with stars including Miles Davis and Charles Lloyd. But he has fearlessly cherished the no-hiding-place art of solo-piano improvisation, as witnessed by live albums including 2006’s Carnegie Hall Concert, 2011’s Rio and, of course, that 1975 opus. In 2018, two successive strokes ruthlessly halted that spontaneous alchemy, which makes this final Jarrett solo performance, recorded in July 2016, something special.

Jarrett, definitely not known to be a schmoozer, reportedly complimented the Bordeaux crowd on how receptive it was, and rightly so. They patiently but expectantly clap for the long, probing opener’s darting free-improv fragments, glittery treble tinklings and wistful chords, as Jarrett gets the feel of the instrument and the room. When a slowly rocking gospel hook emerges in Part III, whistles and yelps break out, and when the frenziedly-spinning minimalist loops of Part V stop dead, the audience erupts. In the end, everything from the softest improvised ballads to the most exuberantly hard-stomping blues draw grateful accolades – the sound of an audience’s thanks for a one-off music that belonged only to their presence with Jarrett, in that space, on that unique evening.

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 Photograph: © Daniela Yohannes/ECM Records

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