Music by Keith Jarrett. Published by Cavelight Music
Part 1-13 recorded live, October 27, 2002, Osaka Festival Hall.
Part 14-17 recorded live, October 30, 2002, Metropolitan Festival Hall, Tokyo
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Some Words About The Music
Months before I went to Japan, I had the idea that, since my career had had a lot to do with transforming energy into something new each time, this time I wanted the transformation to include the actual format itself. Most listeners of my past solo concerts will be momentarily (at least) shocked at the initial absence of melodic - or even motivic -content, the material seemingly un-motivated by any concept at all. This is not an accident (or it was a planned one). I didn't want any premature resolutions. How we arrive at profound thoughts has a lot to do with what we aren't thinking beforehand, and I had in mind letting some of the music happen to me without sitting there deep in thought. I wanted my hands (especially the left hand) to tell me things. This is part of the process I wished to experiment with. Transformative moments are very rare, or they seem so due to our inattention. It takes so many processes to coincide just so for us to arrive at a transformative moment (if we're watching). But maybe this is wrong, and they happen constantly, though we are absent. The listener has to bear with me here. The whole thing is risky, but I've taken you places before and I'm not aiming to disappoint.
The first 13 tracks are discrete pieces drawn from each previous piece, and constitute the entire concert in Osaka. The second piece would not have existed without the first, etc. The audience in Japan also was not prepared for this format, so you will notice no applause at times. Not so strangely, this gave me a chance to really know what to play next. It was a gift to have no applause. Not so much of a gift was the coughing, but still, after experimenting with taking some of the coughs out of the mix, I opted for everything to be there. The event lays itself out as it happened. I was slightly shocked to notice that the concert had arranged itself into a musical structure despite my every effort to be oblivious to the overall outcome. I should not have felt this way, however, for the subconscious musical choices of sequence were made out of the personal need for the next thing. This is what one should keep in mind while listening. We are all players and we are all being played.
Tokyo (tracks 14-17) pieces were selected to keep the flow and spirit and serve also to fill out the second CD. Track 14 and 15 were the first pieces at that concert, in sequence; track 16 was from the second half; track 17 was the last piece. For that complete concert, a DVD will shortly exist. Everything on these discs is completely improvised.
Keith Jarrett returned to performing and recording solo concerts in 1995 with La Scala (released in 1997) after recovering from an illness. That fine recording followed his manner of working that he had begun on Koln Concert in 1975: That is, completely improvised concerts from beginning to end that had melodic and "motivic" centers. The double-disc set that is Radiance, recorded in Japan in 2002, is a new fork in the road. The work has no conceptual center. Jarrett says he wanted to let some of the music "happen" to him while he sat at the piano, deep in thought. He states: "I wanted my hands (particularly the left hand) to tell me things." And happen it does. Each piece, after the first one, comes out of the work that immediately precedes it. There are 13 linked pieces that mark the Osaka concert spread over the first disc, and one-third of disc two. The effect is startling at first because Jarrett is constantly working with what comes, whether dissonant or assonant; he uses the small essences, quick phrases, and themes that come out of each piece to dig further, to extend wider his discovery. Whispers of many musics enter, from classical and jazz to pop to Latin to folk. Nothing feels like a direct quote, but all of it gels together as elemental. Each piece is an aspect of a transformational construction. Most of the music very is exciting; it walks, then runs on edges before turning and stopping, then dances, crawls and rolls, ever-somewhere just past the reach of what preceded it. Some of Radiance is quiet and lyrical (part three, for instance), because it has been suggested by the intensity of the chaotic and forceful harmonic and rhythmic notions preceding it. Jarrett admits in his liner notes "The listener has to bear with me here. The whole thing is risky, but I've taken you places before and I'm not aiming to disappoint." This is born out in the way the audience responds. Some sections get no applause because of the quick, shape-shifting manner in which Jarrett seemingly careens from one place to the next. But intent listening reveals the sometimes very subtle links between themes, spaces, and harmonic and rhythmic invention. Two-thirds of disc two come from a concert in Tokyo conducted in much the same way, though he includes the first two pieces - a cut from the second-half of the concert and the final track - as the performance's closer. These do not distract from the Osaka gig. In fact they contain a beautiful, if momentarily disjointed flow. This is Jarrett the artist taking chances, lots of them. His process is immediate, poignant, and utterly engaging throughout and marks a new phase in his solo recordings that will spur great interest in any open-minded listener interested in improvisational music.
The journey continues ...after a considerable hiatus.
Radiance is the first album of solo piano improvisations from Keith Jarrett in a decade. The last such was La Scala, recorded 1995, released 1997. (In between, in 1999, Jarrett issued the home recording The Melody At Night With You, a solo album of standards and folk songs).
Four years ago, Jarrett told interviewers it was unlikely he would return to solo piano performance. Having been sidelined for several seasons by illness, he had attempted two solo concerts in Japan in the autumn of 1999 but, dissatisfied with the results, had concluded he still needed the safety net of his trio to play live. In 2002, however, he changed his mind and, as it turned out, changed the solo format as well.
Recorded live in Osaka and Tokyo in October 2002, Jarrett forgoes the large arc of musical development, the continuous improvisations common to the majority of his earlier solo concerts. Instead, the material from Osaka develops into a kind of improvised suite comprised of "discrete pieces drawn from each previous piece." As he explains it, "the second piece would not have existed without the first, et cetera." The 'found structure' of the Osaka concert - in part determined by the extreme contrasting of melodic and textural material as well as differentiated sound densities - is reproduced here in its entirety, in pieces 1 through 13, and is augmented by excerpts from a Tokyo concert given three days later. "The Tokyo pieces were selected," Jarrett writes, "to keep the flow and spirit" throughout this double CD, effectively fulfilling the structural implications of the Osaka material.
Overall, however, Radiance bears out an oft-quoted early state-ment of Keith Jarrett's: "The best improvisations I know of are always made when you have no ideas. If an improviser can get ideas out of his head that are possessing his ability to flow, then he can keep playing and keep making music. I don't even have a seed when I start. The solo concert is like another world that has its own rules that I didn't make up."
Witnessing anyone overcome adversity can be inspiring, but when someone with a profound talent becomes prematurely disabled, it becomes even more meaningful. When pianist Keith Jarrett was forced to cease touring due to an extended illness that afflicted him in the mid-'90s, fans wondered if he'd ever play again. The release of his '99 home recording, The Melody at Night, With You - while a welcome indication that he may have been down but certainly not out - still showed that he was only gradually returning to strength.
In the ensuing years since that solo effort, Jarrett has restricted his activities to his long-standing Standards Trio. Unsatisfied with previous attempts at returning to the kind of lengthy solo improvisations that produced significant works including The K?ln Concerts and Sun Bear Concerts, it certainly appeared that Jarrett might not perform solo ever again.
The good news is that in '02 Jarrett decided to give it another go, with one change: rather than performing a continuous improvisation, he would build his solo concerts from "discrete pieces drawn from each previous piece." The result, Radiance, is an evocative double-disc set that combines the entire performance from Osaka on 10/27/02 with four pieces from a concert in Tokyo a few days later. Any doubts about Jarrett's ability to sustain himself in the bare and exposed context of a completely improvised solo concert are laid to waste by the combination of powerful stream-of-consciousness thinking and remarkable spontaneous composition demonstrated throughout these nearly two-and-a-half hours of music.
Fans who pine for the old days of Jarrett the composer will be pleasantly surprised to find some of his pieces remarkably structured. One might even think, after listening to the delicate and hymnal "Part 3" and "Part 8," that Jarrett could take these pieces and build them into more developed works for his trio. And the fact that pieces of such beauty and form could be pulled from the ether makes them all the more compelling.
Elsewhere, Jarrett is more abstract, with pieces that seem to build tension, sometimes never resolving. And while the performance eschews any real direct ties to the jazz tradition for the most part, revealing equal connections to contemporary classical music, there are some obvious ties, the ninety-second "Part 11" being a prime example with its remarkable bebop vibe.
What makes the entire set so rewarding is Jarrett's incredible sense of intuition. There may be breaks between the pieces, but they so obviously derive from each other that the Osaka concert takes on a larger arc, with the Tokyo pieces a fitting coda. Jarrett seems to know just when to shift from free, intense abstraction to gentle, almost pastoral beauty, and there are few artists today who can structure a solo concert with such a strong sense of narrative and unerring intent.
Radiance is not just a return to form; it's an instant classic of solo improvisation that is destined to rank highly among Jarretts strongest work.
John Kelman (Allaboutjazz.com)