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Over the past five decades, KEITH JARRETT has come to be recognized as one of the most creative musicians of our times – universally acclaimed as an improviser of unsurpassed genius; a master of jazz piano; a classical keyboardist of great depth; and as a composer who has written hundreds of pieces for his various jazz groups, plus extended works for orchestra, soloist, and chamber ensemble.
Born May 8, 1945 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Keith Jarrett began playing the piano at age three and undertook classical music studies throughout his youth. He took formal composition studies at age 15, before moving to Boston to briefly study at Berklee College of Music.
After a tentative period sitting in at New York jazz spots, Jarrett toured first with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, then from 1966-1968 with the Charles Lloyd Quartet. He soon led his own trio with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian, which in 1972 expanded to a quartet with the addition of tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. From 1970-1971 Jarrett also became a featured member in Miles Davis’ electric fusion group, playing electric piano and organ – his last stint as a sideman. Thereafter, Jarrett dedicated himself exclusively to performing acoustic music as a solo artist and as a leader.
In 1971 Jarrett began his recording collaboration with German producer Manfred Eicher and ECM Records (Editions of Contemporary Music). This fruitful collaboration has produced over 60 recordings to date, unparalleled in their scope, diversity, and quality.
The foundation of the Jarrett/ECM discography is made up of the landmark solo piano recordings that have helped redefine the role of the piano in contemporary music. His piano improvisations appear on Facing You, Solo Concerts, The Köln Concert, Staircase, Sun Bear Concerts, Moth and the Flame Concerts, Paris Concert, Dark Intervals, Vienna Concert, La Scala, Radiance, The Carnegie Hall Concert, Testament: Paris /London, and, most recently, Rio – recorded live in concert at the Theatro Municipal Opera House in Rio De Janeiro in April 2011 and released in November 2011. Rio has already been hailed as “a masterpiece” by critics worldwide.
Jarrett’s solo-piano recordings incorporate a broad spectrum of musical idioms and languages – classical, jazz, ethnic, gospel, folk, blues, and pure sound – revealing a creative process based on a deeply conscious state of wakefulness and listening “in the moment,” producing music both deeply personal, yet universal. This body of solo piano work is without precedent, with The Köln Concert being the best-selling solo piano recording in history.
In May 2010, on the occasion of Keith Jarrett’s 65th birthday, ECM released Jasmine, an intimate duo recording with Keith Jarrett and bassist Charlie Haden (their first musical collaboration in over 30 years), which has been one of the most acclaimed and best-selling jazz recordings of the past year worldwide.
For the past 25 years, Keith Jarrett’s main context for playing jazz has been in trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. In January 1983 Jarrett invited Peacock and DeJohnette to New York’s Power Station studio to record “standards” – the rich body of American Broadway show and jazz tunes from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. At the time it was considered passé for top players to concentrate on standards instead of original material, but Jarrett thought it was important to show that “music wasn’t about the material, but what the player brings to the material.”
Classical music releases by Keith Jarrett on ECM include J.S. Bach keyboard works, Sonatas for Viola Da Gamba and Cembalo with Kim Kaskashian (viola) and Jarrett (harpsichord); piano recordings of Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87; Handel’s Suites for Keyboard; and two volumes of Jarrett performing selected Mozart Piano Concertos with the Stuttgart Kammerorchester under the direction of Dennis Russell Davies.
In May 2006 ECM released its first DVD, Keith Jarrett: Tokyo Solo, a complete concert video filmed in November 2002. In the fall of 2008 ECM rereleased four live trio concert videos filmed in Tokyo between 1985 and 1996.
In May 2005, on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Euro Arts released the DVD Keith Jarrett: The Art of Improvisation, a full-length documentary film directed by British filmmaker Mike Dibbs. The DVD features archival performance footage of Keith Jarrett taken from his entire career.
Keith Jarrett’s many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, Prix du Président de la République and Grand Prix du Disque awards from the Academie Charles Cros (France), seven Deutscher Schallplattenpries (Germany), and eight Grammy nominations in both jazz and classical categories. In December 2010, it was announced that Keith Jarrett’s ECM Records solo piano recording The Köln Concert would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, a select list of recordings of lasting quality and historical significance that are at least 25 years old.
In 1998, he was named Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2007 Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 1996 he was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, joining Duke Ellington as only the second foreign jazz artist ever to be so honored. In 2002 he was elected to be Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2003 Keith Jarrett was awarded the Polar Music Prize, presented by the King of Sweden in a special televised ceremony in Stockholm. In July 2004 he was presented the Leonie Sonning Prize in Copenhagen, another of the world’s major music awards. He is only the second jazz artist to receive the Sonning Prize since its founding in 1959, Miles Davis being the first in 1985.