BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Pianist Keith Jarrett turned 70 earlier this year, and celebrated the best way he knew how: with new music. Creation collects material from various solo performances into a single, multi-part work. Though spawned by his onstage improvisations, the pieces lean on Jarrett’s pastoral side, marrying clusters of tuneful chords to rhythms that casually unfold purely to support the melody. This isn’t languid dicking around, mind you – Jarrett’s meandering sounds almost deliberate, at least mindful, as if he knows where he’s going and is just taking his time getting there. The result is a gorgeous outing that should please fans of his classical side as much as those who favor his jazz recordings.
Speaking of Jarrett’s classical music, he’s paired the release of Creation with a set of recordings from the folios of Samuel Barber and Béla Bartók. Recorded in 1984 with the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken in Germany, Barber’s Piano Concerto, op. 38 gets a fairly straightforward run-through, with both Jarrett and conductor Dennis Russell Davies bringing extreme sensitivity to the work. Perhaps a bit too much sensitivity – the quiet almost becomes too much until “Allegro molto,” when Jarrett explodes on the keyboard while the orchestra swells and recedes behind him.
Recorded in Tokyo in 1985 with the New Japan Philharmonic, Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Sz 119 is richer, fuller and more vibrant, Perhaps it’s the more vigorous performance coaxed out of the orchestra by conductor Kazuyoshi Akiyama, or perhaps it’s simply the choice of material, but the musicians bring more energy and flair to this recording, especially on the spiritually dusted “Adagio religioso” and the tumbling dice of “Allegro vivace.”
Interestingly, Jarrett ends the classical record with “Nothing But the Truth,” an improvised original used as an encore in Tokyo. Romantic and beautiful, if brief by comparison to the rest of the works, it would sound just as at home on Creation as it does here. It ties the records together, making it clear that these aren’t two sides of one personality, but a boundary-blurring musical whole.
DOWNLOAD: “Creation: Part II,” Bartók: “Adagio religioso,” “Nothing But the Truth”