(ECM 375 5519)
In 1986 Keith Jarrett filled his home studio, Cavelight, with a whole bunch of cables and leads linking a deep red Gibson solid body electric guitar and a blond wood Fender bass guitar, plus tablas and drums, all feeding via a couple of Neumann stereo microphones into two Tandberg cassette recorders.
Then he played each instrument in turn, overdubbing from one recorder to the other while listening on headphones. This double album’s worth of pieces is the result.
So, apart from being a complete winner if you are considering subjecting your jazz mates to a blindfold listening test over Christmas, is there any reason you should want to add this album to your collection? Well, yes, I can think of a couple.
One is that it really is quite an enjoyable listen, especially if, as Keith suggests, you turn the volume up. This not only picks up all the nuances of the electric instruments, but also Keith’s singing along (yes, in tune!) and it lets the music function as it should: as a set of improvised grooves, loose, trance-like and open ended, with no particular direction or narrative propulsion, happy to just to be. It is richly funky at times, even if it’s full of reminders that getting a lovely sound from a cymbal is perhaps best left to a proper drummer.
The other reason is for what it represents, both as a different way of going about jazz, as an example of the fact that for a true musician the specific instrument is just a mechanism, and maybe also as a reminder that Mr Jarrett wasn’t always such a curmudgeon.
In the liner notes he reminisces about his hippy times in Haight-Ashbury: “Days of bringing my saxophone to the Golden Gate Park and playing all day under a certain tree with a group of players…” Now I know what you’re thinking: what if someone in the park had tried to take a picture of the young Keith?
Yep, it would be fun if the Jarrett of today decided to do something more innovative than just release this document of less uptight times (he writes: “Something like freedom was not so impossible to even imagine decades ago.”) How about trying to imagine it now, then? What about a bit of busking in Hyde Park next time you’re in London, Keith? Or inviting your audience to dance along, wave their beads around, maybe light up the occasion with mobile phone flash or two!
So, No End is a very different Keith Jarrett album and maybe one for the completists. If you are a fussier fan, or stopped flying your freak flag a few years back, there is consolation in the fact that Keith has also just released a three-CD box called Concerts: Bregenz/Munchen – solo piano concerts from 1981. You’ll all know what to expect from that one.
Buy Keith Jarrett’s No End here
Buy Keith Jarrett’s Concerts: Bregenz/Munchen here
Categories: CD review