Review: Keith Jarrett at his peak on ‘Bordeaux Concert’

This cover image released by ECM Records shows "Bordeaux Concert" by Keith Jarrett. (ECM Records via AP)

“Bordeaux Concert,” Keith Jarrett (ECM Records)

When Keith Jarrett gently strikes the final note on the opening piece of “Bordeaux Concert,” 15 seconds pass before concertgoers begin to applaud, taking time to savor what they just heard.

New music from our greatest living jazz pianist, now 77, has always been something to relish, and even more so since he stopped performing in 2017 for health reasons.

“Bordeaux Concert” is the third show from Jarrett’s 2016 solo tour released by record label ECM, and it captures him still in peak form. He fills a summer night in southwest France with an improvised 13-part, 78-minute suite that’s an astounding mix of intensity, introspection and invention.

Structure and pacing are a marvel as Jarrett’s on-the-spot composition swings between gorgeous lyricism and dissonant, distressed chromatic explorations that abandon tempo. Some sections offer a struggle pitting order against chaos, rich ringing chords alternating with agitated rumbles of the piano as a percussive machine.

Jarrett gets a groove on, too. After settling into a New Orleans-style blues boogie, he sings a possible saxophone part as his right hand does delightful knuckle-twisting.

There are nods to Jarrett’s Hungarian roots and Bartók, to Debussy and Gershwin. For long stretches he’s at his most romantic and cinematic, as if he’s working out of a lost page from the Great American Songbook, and the music shimmers with beauty.

One yearning melody unfolds like an invitation to hum, and so Jarrett does. He likes what he’s hearing, and it’s easy to understand why.



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