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This superb set of solo improvisations, recorded at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, is released on the 40th anniversary of Keith Jarrett’s first recording for ECM, Facing You. Given the pianist’s fully justified estimate of his own abilities, it was no surprise to learn from the publicity that even Jarrett himself was taken aback at what he had achieved when he listened to the concert recording: ‘Even though I did it, a completely improvised, structured arc of music that has one of the most beautiful endings I have ever done, it still blows my mind.’

This egotism has sometimes led to a lack of self-criticism in his playing, but that is not evident in these 15 tracks – partly because they are all quite short, so he doesn’t allow himself to get obsessed with any banal idea. Jarrett’s capacity for spontaneous creation of song forms is almost unparalleled, and the second of the two discs in particular is as lyrical as his famous Köln Concert – especially the gorgeous opening track, Part VII (the tracks are named with Roman numerals).

Part IX reminds me of Ryuichi Sakamato’s East Asian-inflected Romantic elegies, and there are blues and Latin American genres in here too. I can believe that these ideas are spontaneous, but still I regret that Jarrett rarely plays his own body of compositions, especially those he recorded in the 70s with his great US quartet. In the art of spontaneous musical creation, Jarrett has few peers.

ANDY HAMILTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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