A standing ovation by an enthusiastic crowd at a sold out concert even before the first piece has to feel good. It doesn’t just say that you’ve made it—it says that you are a legend and you have a legacy. I don’t remember seeing the crowd so enthralled by a presence of an artist since being at Fairouz’s concert in Beirut, who’s status goes way beyond a legend—she’s pretty much a national treasure. But back to Keith Jarrett for now.
I’ve been listening to Keith Jarrett for, let’s see…about 20 years?, and seeing him play live has been on one of my bucket lists. Never mind that I’ve seen the Pyramids and hiked in the Himalayas—bring me Keith Jarrett.
This is the picture of the Keith Jarrett Trio from tonight’s concert, coming out to do their third encore (they did four in total), 30-minutes after the concert was over. As people started leaving, I quickly made my way from the $45 seat to $125 seat and enjoyed the final four pieces of the evening there. They started off the evening with a rhythmic, electrifying piece and ended it with “When I Fall in Love” (and you could hear the audience sigh as soon as he started playing it).
Was he all that I had expected? You bet. His music was anything from ecstatic to haunting and nostalgic to deeply tender.
So what makes a musician a legend? What I was drawn most to in Jarrett’s performance tonight was the quality of his tone. Velvety, subtle yet assertive, conversational…impossible to resist. Yes, I’m still talking about piano playing. And as a musician, I know that that tone cannot be produced without grueling, intense and meticulous practices and deconstruction of your work. But that’s just the beginning. Once you’ve done that to achieve the technical competence to free your body, the second half of the work is about freeing your mind and emotion. Authenticity, vulnerability and being “real”—whatever that may mean for each person—are what creates that beautiful tone that possesses a unique spiritual quality. You do that often enough and consistent enough and that’s when you create your “signature sound.”
Thinking through some of the legends of jazz, they all had that signature sound. Miles, Duke, Ella, Billie, Louis, Thelonius. They all gave us that unmistakable sound that we still recognize as theirs. See, the thing is, the audience is not fooled by fakes. They’re actually smarter than that.
NPR interview of Keith Jarrett: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/14/142311136/keith-jarrett-alone-in-rio-and-ready-to-fail