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Keith Jarrett: No End

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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