What happened was, I was gonna make the traditional Sunday-morning pancakes and bacon and, as I do every other week or so, told the eight-year-old to turn the damn cartoons off already because I wanted music. I threw the ancient vinyl of The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett on the turntable and all these years later, I kept having to stop making pancakes because Keith had grabbed me where you have to listen when they grab you there.

The Köln Concert

The Context · Wikipedia has the story, dating from January 24, 1975 (wow, 40 years ago). It’s an interesting story and this sort of thing has happened more than once: Famous players, adverse conditions, fantastic result. “Four” & More comes to mind right away.

The Music · Oh, just shut up and listen. It’s only the best-selling solo jazz album, and best-selling solo piano album, of all time. There are nominally three tracks. They don’t have names. There was no rehearsal. The piano was a a second-rate fallback. Jarrett had severe back pain.

The music dances and moans and breathes: Pounding rhythms and castles of light in the air; Keith fires all the guns and explodes into space. OK, that’s overwrought, but there’s just not a calm way to talk about it.

The Sound · I’ve written here before about my audiophilia in general, and in particular the conundrum of liking vinyl in a digital age. I’ve taken up and left behind other passions over the years; but the expensive boxes at that end of the room give me reliable pleasure decade after decade and I can’t imagine living without what they do.

I bet the CD and MP3 versions of The Köln Concert are really great listening. But this LP, played through a decent system; well, that’s something extra special.



Contributions

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From: John (Feb 16 2015, at 09:12)

Picked up the album based upon your glowing review. Thanks for the recommendation.

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From: SteveM (Feb 16 2015, at 18:13)

Thanks for this. I've always loved that album, but I never knew there was a story behind it. I once saw Keith Jarrett play in a club in Philly, and witnessed -- tantrum is the wrong word, because it was totally justified -- but he refused to play until someone found the grand piano lid which had been removed, and lectured the audience and the club managers about how a piano is a directional instrument, and why do people always think they can mike it better by removing the lid ... and went on about pianos and acoustics for 20 minutes until they found the lid and reattached it. But it was a great show and well worth the wait.

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