Keith Jarrett: Bordeaux Concert

The pianist showed on this 2016 set from what turned out to be his final solo tour that he could still produce new and surprising music


In February 2016 Keith Jarrett embarked on what proved to be his final solo tour, playing eight concerts in the United States and then Europe. This concert in Bordeaux on 7 July was the fifth; the eighth and final one, Munich, was on 16 July. Other than a single solo appearance in Carnegie Hall early in 2017, he performed no more, for in early 2018 he suffered two strokes that in effect ended his public career.

As with the preceding Budapest and later Munich performances, both already released by ECM, the concert from Bordeaux consists of numbered but nameless parts, 13 in this case – gone are the days of long, continuous improvisations – although unlike those two, without the added benefit of a few familiar songs to end proceedings.

Like the other seven concerts in this tour, the music from Bordeaux had its own strikingly distinct character. Some listeners have remarked on its lyrical impulse, its lightness of touch, which is certainly well to the fore in the poised, gentle Part VI and elsewhere, but to me the main element is the surprising differences in style, of moving from the lyrical into an occasional rhythmic choppiness, even turmoil, as in the endlessly circling melodic loops of Part V.

This results in a sometimes agitated, anxious approach, not always a music easy to listen to or reassure, although Jarrett’s abilities to soothe and relax are always prominent. Perhaps it more accurate to note that Jarrett is thinking harder here than usual, rather than deliver phrases that he has used before and is familiar with.

Part VIII is one of the rare times Jarrett has played a straight piano blues, albeit in a disjointed boogie-woogie style, but he then jumps into the most tender of songs in Part IX, as if to confound our expectations. And then he surprises us again with a high-register fast-step intricate dance in Part X and a slow romantic ballad in Part XI. The concluding three parts are all tender songs, and all are achingly beautiful.

This set is indeed the sound of surprise, that after all these years Jarrett can, or rather could, still deliver something new. No doubt further historic sets will appear in the future, but this one is as fine as any of them could be.

Parts 1–XIII (77.36)
Jarrett (p). Opéra National de Bordeaux, France, 6 July 2016.
ECM Records 4576607