TO Jazz Review: Keith Jarrett, June 30, Four Seasons

Toronto – There are a few ways for a musician to be successful in this world. Some artists strive to keep music a personal journey. Most take this path with the understanding that they won’t be the next U2 or Lady Gaga. Their creativity remains intact, but often at the expense of commercial success. On the other end of the spectrum, there are musicians that have learned how to cater to the wants and needs of the masses. Good examples of this camp include U2 and Lady Gaga. They’ve developed the necessary skills to create music that people like, and to those individuals, the riches flow.

However, it is possible to walk the line between being a commercially successful artist, and one that still commands the respect of their peers. It’s a rare bird that can garner fame, fortune, and be a source of musical inspiration. Keith Jarrett is one of those birds. His solo performance in 1975 entitled The Köln Concert is the best selling piano recording in history; it also established him as juggernaut on the musical landscape. His mastery of both classical and jazz music has allowed him to travel to places mere mortals only dream about. He is universally and uniquely respected in the jazz community and is one of the most celebrated pianists in the world.

“I know the tickets were expensive. But tonight, money doesn’t matter” [overheard from concert goer]

Keith and his trio played the Four Seasons Centre last Wednesday as part of the jazz festival Grandmaster Series. Its a fitting title, because Keith truly is the grand daddy of living grandmasters. When he came out on stage and began to play, the entire crowd was pin drop silent. When Keith Jarrett sits down in front of grand piano, there’s no longer any doubt that you’re standing in the presence of someone truly brilliant. Fans know that with this particular brilliance comes some idiosyncrasy; Keith is well known for throwing the occasional tantrum. The Keith Jarrett moment at this concert involved stopping one piece because a single note sounded to him like it was yelling “help!” During intermission they swapped out the piano with a replacement.

I chatted with a gentleman who had seen Keith play years ago and felt that the music they now produce is more edited, a little more restrained, and a little more refined. In addition to technical mastery and an unparalleled understanding of the piano, Keith plays with a raw passion that is inspiring to see. He grunts, and groans as he carves out melodies in such a genuine display of emotion that it’s hard not to get lost in it all. The way to listen to Keith Jarrett live is to try not to analyse the technical mastery, but just feel the emotion. I honestly don’t know where I was for most of this concert.

If there was one thing that was a bit underwhelming, it was seeing the empty seats at the Four Seasons. Keith Jarrett commands a rather hefty price tag. The cheapest seats were $50, at the very top of the hall, and sold out ages ago. Move slightly closer and you pay $90 and even these seats were sold out some time ago. But the vast majority of the tickets in the hall rang in just shy of $140. This kept the crowd limited to the truly comitted. I just wish that the barrier of entry to seeing such a fantastic musician wasn’t so fantastically high.

Highlights of the evening included the three encores Keith played. The crowd was incredibly charged after the set. It was satisfying to see Keith, after coming out to bow a few times, rub his hands together, nod to let us know the he’ll play a little more, and walk back towards his piano. His first encore was particularly charged with some sophisticated blues and an amazing groove. The rest was tasteful and sweet.


Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival