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Artist’s Choice: Kenny Werner on Keith Jarrett

Today’s top jazz performers pick 10 favorite tracks by the players, singers and styles that helped define them

Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett is generally recognized as one of the greatest pianists and improvisers of his time. He represents the apex of human possibilities for an artist, where intellect, virtuosity and spirit combine to constitute genius. For many years now Jarrett has focused on his trio with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock. Lost, perhaps, is his prolific composing, which went hand in hand with the beauty of his playing. Many of my picks deal with Jarrett’s early period because they have much to do with his compositions. Likewise, although his most famous solo recording, The Köln Concert, and all subsequent solo recordings, are much better known to the public, for me his first solo recording, Facing You, reigns supreme. Its innovative approach to composition and musical development was shocking at the time. Jarrett radiated as much warmth, heart and beauty in his playing as he did virtuosity and intellect. Jarrett’s playing represents new and innovative levels of harmonic, rhythmic and melodic development bundled with the vastest creativity imaginable. It was a new standard of playing in its time and still is today. That’s how far-reaching his abilities are.

“Secret Love”
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
Buttercorn Lady (Limelight, 1966)

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