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Album Review

Rio, the double-disc solo concert recording by Keith Jarrett, marks his 40th anniversary as an ECM recording artist; coincidentally, Facing You, his debut for the label, was a solo piano recording, though cut in a studio. Many of Jarrett's improvised solo concerts have represented benchmarks in his career: The Köln Concert, The Sun Bear Solo Concerts, and La Scala among them. His musical and philosophical approach toward recording this way has evolved and been refined over the decades, but nowhere more so than on Rio, a complete document of his show at the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro in April of 2011. The date is a hint that something very different is afoot here: Jarrett's live offerings are usually issued years after an event instead of mere months afterwards (the pianist called label boss Manfred Eicher from the airport after the show. After one listen, it becomes obvious Rio is indeed very special. It puts on aural display Jarrett as a virtually boundless musician, whose on-the-spot, wide-ranging ideas are executed with astonishing immediacy and dexterity; this music is passionate, poetic (often songlike), and stands outside the confines of genre. The strength of his pianism and diversity in his thought and philosophy between music and everyday life dissolve into the freest improvisation he has ever displayed on record. In these 15 untitled selections, Jarrett allows everything from his sense impressions about the city, the country, cultural and social history, the evening, and the audience to simply have their way with him spontaneously. The effect is intimate, energetic, emotionally engaged, and wildly expressive and imaginative. What begins in the knotty dissonance and counterpoint of the first selection gives way to the elliptical on the second to something approaching song for the remainder of disc one's six selections. By the beginning of disc two, the listener is transfixed as jazz improvisation melds seamlessly into nearly classical investigations of detail, harmony, and nuance; simultaneously, folk traditions, blues and ballad forms, and rhythmic invention are all encased in a pervasive lyricism that possesses pianist and audience alike. Even music that sounds "familiar" is based on preconceived notions by the listener, since nothing approaching what is here actually exists in Jarrett's recorded catalog. Rio is therefore the new standard by which the pianist's future solo recordings will be judged, and perhaps also sets the bar for any other player who attempts the same.

Biography

Born: 08 May 1945 in Allentown, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Pianist, composer, and bandleader Keith Jarrett is one of the most prolific, innovative, and iconoclastic musicians to emerge from the late 20th century. As a pianist (though that is by no means the only instrument he plays) he literally changed the conversation in jazz by introducing an entirely new aesthetic regarding solo improvisation in concert. Though capable of playing in a wide variety of styles, Jarrett is deeply grounded in the jazz tradition. He has recorded nearly 80 albums...
Full bio