Keith Jarrett
No End

No End was recorded in 1986, but it sounds even older. The project features piano icon Keith Jarrett solo, though not on solo piano. Instead, he plays a 20-part “suite,” multitracking himself on electric guitar, Fender bass, drums, tabla and various percussion—piano makes one appearance, in the backing track on “X”—for two discs and 90-plus minutes of droning, ’60s-ish psychedelic jams. Forget one-man bands; Jarrett is a one-man drum circle.

There’s little more to it than that. Jarrett claims in his liners that his only premeditation for the music was “groove”; alas, variety and direction seem to have been among the casualties. “XVII,” for example, consists of two rotating pairs of guitar chords, each a whole tone apart, brief single-note noodles (with the vaguely Eastern flavor that was popular with the likes of Jerry Garcia) in between, and loping four-to-the-bar percussion underneath. And, of course, Jarrett’s grunting vocalizations.

The difference between “XVII” and most of the other pieces is minor: There are variations in the rhythms, accents and subdivisions, but a steady 4/4 remains omnipresent. (“XIV” begins with promising rhythmic complexity but plods by the end.) Also, “II” and “IV” have more prominent basslines; “XVI” uses contrapuntal guitar lines; and “XII” replaces the drum beat with mild cymbal color (and emphasizes the album’s unrelenting tape hiss, a sign of 1986). “V” is a notable exception, a light Caribbean lilt with double-tracked chant singing. It’s a refreshing change-up, but in and of itself is no less monotonous.

Perhaps Jarrett recorded No End out of nostalgia for working in Charles Lloyd’s and Miles Davis’ bands—days beguiling the hippie set, who found virtue in aimless jamming. Regardless, it’s a trifle in his otherwise majestic discography.

Originally published in January/February 2014

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