Don't Forget to Write

I don’t like Keith Jarrett very much.

No, not as a person; I don’t know him. And even the snotty things he says in print don’t faze me; I think they’re funny, actually, and Jarrett is obviously very smart. (Check out Marius Nordal’s engaging interview with him on page 86.)

I just don’t like Jarrett’s music all that much.

Yeah, I admit, it has something to do with the legendary grunting he emits while playing. I find his guttural sounds as distracting as the creaky floorboards at the new Walt Disney Concert Hall that Jarrett complained about when he played there in November. (“Do you hear that?” Don Heckman reported Jarrett saying in the Los Angeles Times. “It must be the sound of ghost cartoon characters.”)

I recognize that Jarrett is a remarkable pianist, and I can hear that his Standards Trio, with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, plays on a higher level than most bands. But I still find something lacking in their music—and it’s not something I can put my finger on.

The same feeling of “I don’t get it” came over me when I figured out that Wayne Shorter won album of the year for Alegría in both our critics/industry poll and in our readers’ poll. I like the album, and I love Shorter, but something about his latest CD left me cold. I found the music highly intelligent but ultimately too clinical.

Those are the sorts of things that all listeners face eventually; your tastes aren’t always (and perhaps rarely) going to match up with the consensus picks. And even as our even-keeled intellects start to wonder, “What am I missing?” our healthy egos perk up and say, “What are they thinking?”

It’s part of the joy in participating in music, not just passively listening to it. Disagreements and utter contempt—along with head-spinning happiness and soul-stirring excitement—is all part of being a passionate music fan.

I hope that when you read this issue, featuring our annual year in review, you remember that opinions are like glass bowls: everybody has one, and collectors of these objects probably have more than one. And your opinions count—whether you agree with our 2003 picks for best of the year or whether you are scratching your head about them.

We’d like to hear from more of you. Direct your comments—positive, negative or otherwise—to letters@jazztimes.com.

You can also log on to the 2003 year-in review forum on the message boards at JazzTimes.com.

Of course, don’t tell me I’m wrong about Jarrett or Alegría. I may not know much, but I know what I like.

Originally published in January/February 2004

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