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12,393 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 112 of them this year alone and, so far, 112 this month (Jan. 23).

Friday, October 23, 2020

Album Review: Keith Jarrett – Budapest Concert

Keith Jarrett has Hungarian roots and a love of Bartók – both predisposed him towards this performance at the Béla Bartók Hall in Budapest in July 2016, which he considered akin to a homecoming.  The concert was recorded live and is presented in twelve “Parts” over two discs.  The Parts are numbered sequentially I – XII, I-IV on disc one and V-XII on disc two. 

In the time honoured fashion, championed by Julie Andrews, I start at the very beginning – a very good place to start! Part I is a full-on Jarrett improvisation seemingly composed of random blocks and no discernible melody and lasting just under 15 minutes. Part II presents a distinct opposite with cloudy impressionist chords, tuneful, but at the same time abstract. Part III comprises runs of notes and trills, but with harmonic accompaniment and sometimes with an almost Middle Eastern flavour.  Unfortunately the effect is somewhat spoiled at the end by the audience applauding over the dying piano chords.  Part IV is more muscular with concentrated rhythmic use in the left hand of the bottom quarter of the keyboard building up a groove.

Part V is a gentle melodic introduction to disc two with a song-like quality from the heyday of the GASbook ballads, beautiful and well received by the audience.  The tempo is upped in Part VI with an almost boogie-woogie feel. Part VII is back in the impressionist style – a slight hint of far eastern promise here and there perhaps.  Fast trills announce the arrival of Part VIII, although the overall progression is relatively slow. Part
IX
revisits the frank improvisatory quality of the first track with rapid, seemingly random note runs, but is much shorter at just under 3 minutes.  This provides an introduction to Part X which is much in the same vein.  Part XI returns to melody (“And breathe!”), setting up the final item, Part XII – Blues (which does what it says on the tin).

An extended encore follows. It’s A Lonesome Old Town (Tobias/Kisco) and Answer Me (Winkler/Rauch) are given the full Jarrett treatment.

Despite my ambivalence towards the less melodic offerings  (which probably says more about me than the artist!) I regard this overall as a stunning album – indeed, Jarrett himself is quoted in the promotional material on ECM’s website as “viewing the Budapest Concert as his current gold standard”. An observation perhaps made all the more poignant by Keith Jarrett’s recent New York Times interview.

Hugh C

Budapest Concert is issued on ECM (Catalogue No. ECM2700/01 073 0194) and is scheduled for release on  October 30.

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