Everybody – at least in my shattered corner of the universe – knows that Keith Jarrett is one of the greatest jazz pianist. But what about a series of (almost home) recordings made in his small private studio back in 1986 where Keith Jarrett plays electric guitars, Fender bass, drums, percussion, table, some vocals and only rarely some piano. He also added an advice for the listener in the footnotes of the record: “Play this music LOUD, especially tracks 2 to 20, since many inner details will be lost at lower volumes.” Some critics, “musical experts” (whatever that may mean!) rushed to scream bloody murder and pointed out that this is not jazz. I’m not an expert, but I’m quite curious what they think jazz is? Listening track II I definitively felt like I was i the room where Miles Davis and his very honorable mates recorded “Bitches Brew”. But well, many (idiots) believe that what Miles did after ’68 was not jazz either, so, nothing’s shocking, this planet can bear much more then we can think of.
The other “argument” is that there are no developed melodies and no “real” song structures, only the same type of jamming throughout. It’s probably true, but not heaving rigid song structures and repetitive melodies it’s not something new, building and exploring out of the box was always a way to get further in jazz and avant-garde music, sometimes even in pop (culture). Seriously guys, did you expected that Jarrett will deliver a collection of standards played on guitar, bass and drums?
Another “argument” is that if this recordings would be important they wouldn’t have sat in a drawer for twenty-seven years. This is probably – at least – half way true, but then again, compared to what other recordings you started measuring the importance of this one? You compare it with “The Köln Concert” or with…. well, don’t know and don’t wanna name anybody and any other record. But I’m damn sure that those “critics” and “experts” who questioning the value of Jarrett’s electric adventure are the pretty same guys who never in their whole life touched a guitar string with their precious fingers, never hit a cymbal with a drum stick, but always ask for free VIP passes to the gigs and free promo CDs.
Knowing that Jarrett has been strongly opposed to electronic instruments and equipment for many years, this “electric” Jarrett it’s pretty much a delicatessen pour connoisseurs. The recording it’s surprisingly accurate and the mix it’s flawless, can hear clearly each and every instrument without any of them being over-dominant. As Jarrett himself recommended: listen it loud! And listen it without prejudices! This is a journey, the pleasure it’s the walk-through, the destination it’s less important! And Jarrett seems to have a pretty pleasant jam session with himself riding on some tribal, eventually African and Latin rooted rhythms and mixing Indian flavors with jazz-rock vibe and singing sometimes wordless vocals.
Take it as it is and enjoy it!
Finally, here’s an excerpt from “In conversation with Keith Jarrett” (2009) about the “No End” session:
Stuart Nicholson – “You mentioned the quartet earlier. Do you see a role for that again in your music?
Keith Jarrett – I am basically never thinking of the future. I actually have things from the past. Believe it or not there’s a sequel to Spirits that was done on all electric instruments: two guitars, electric bass, drums, percussion, voice and occasionally something else.
Stuart Nicholson – When did you do this?
Keith Jarrett – Shortly after I did Spirits in the late 1980s, and this has been resting in my house ever since and I played it for a couple of people recently and they go, ‘Oh my God! This has to come out, because nobody is going to believe this stuff!’ And one of the things about it is, I’m playing all the instruments, but the thing I really get a kick out of it every time I hear it is how tight the rhythm section is. It’s like the best feel on some of these things I could ever get because I knew what I wanted. When you’re with percussionists, their sense of time is slightly different. Every drummer is different, and you’re playing piano and you’re trying to blend and find where the rhythmic point is, and it’s a blend of all those guys. But here, it’s so contagious because [the rhythm section] was all me. And I’m not saying this from an egotistical standpoint. It’s… I guess the word is contagious. It’s like hearing Miles’ rhythm section at the Blackhawk, and you hear how they are at one. Every beat at exactly the same precise place, and for me it was all my sense of time. The reason I bring that up is there is not just a future, there’s [also] a past. At the moment the Trio is going to go the length. The next release is going to be the Paris and the London concerts together; there was something special going on there.”
KeithJarrett.org – An unofficial website about jazz pianist Keith Jarrett.