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Music Review: Keith Jarrett – Rio

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Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with stating; “The only constant is change,” some 2500 years ago. Although Ancient Greece is a far cry from Allentown, PA – it would seem that pianist Keith Jarrett has lived by Heraclitus’ dictum since he began playing professionally in the mid-sixties. After an acclaimed stint with Miles Davis, Jarrett began recording for the ECM label, and it is there that he has enjoyed his greatest success.

Beginning with the enormously popular The Koln Concert in 1975, Keith Jarrett’s uncanny ability to improvise full solo concerts has been remarkable. There really is nobody else in music working like this. Rio is his latest, a souvenir of the concert he gave in Rio de Janeiro in April 2011.

This two-CD set commemorates the first time Mr. Jarrett had appeared in the region in over two decades. The nature of performing a 100% spontaneously improvised set is so unique that it can never be duplicated. Interestingly enough, where Keith’s hands took him that April day in the wonderful acoustics of Rio’s Theatro Municpal, is to a series of 15 relatively short spaces.

While the times of each track vary, they average around six minutes. This is a far cry from 30-minute plus pieces on Sun Bear and other seventies-era recordings, but in line with something like his relatively recent Paris/London: Testament.

His compositions at the Theatro were nothing if not inclusive. We find Keith Jarrett exploring a wide variety of styles throughout the 15 cuts. These include excursions into what some may consider a more “traditional” jazz sound, as well as forays into other, more personal realms. As a listener, I find it fascinating how Keith can remind me one moment of the intense lyricism of a Bill Evans, then quickly move into a dissonance worthy of Ornette Coleman. And in keeping with his all-inclusive musical approach, Jarrett seems to highlight everything in between, even at the same time.

Rio is like the ultimate soundtrack to what Keith Jarrett was thinking/feeling that April day in Brazil, just a few months ago. It is beautiful, challenging, rewarding, and most of all just a very enjoyable two hours of music to listen to. The fans on hand made their appreciation obvious, and I will too. This is another wonderful document of one of the great musical minds of our era, hard at work.

Absolutely recommended for fans of Keith Jarrett, solo acoustic piano music, or both.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • Triniman

    My next jazz purchase. I wish he would tour Canada. Nice review, Greg.

  • Greg Barbrick

    Thank you Triniman – I too would love to see him live.

  • dominic

    Great review, I wasn’t aware of this recording though spent a lot of time listening to ‘Testament’ so I may well check out given your endorsements. And yes! The Heraclitus quote certainly applies to KJ’s musical output – one of the most diverse composer/performers of the last 100 years no doubt.

  • jevon

    nothing good recorded since 1978. i think u need a few tim berne albums, sir.great review. just got the album.well written