Keith Jarrett: Bordeaux Concert review | John Fordham’s jazz album of the month

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

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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