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Keith Jarrett: Rio

Thomas Conrad reviews Keith Jarrett's latest solo work

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With few exceptions, Keith Jarrett currently makes two kinds of albums: recordings of standards with his trio, and improvised live solo concerts. They are very different formats. The first begins with known form and opens it outward. The second chooses from infinite options and evolves spontaneous form.

The double-disc Rio is the latest solo concert release. It documents a performance on April 9, 2011 at Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. Over the decades, the shape of a Jarrett solo concert has changed. In the early years, most pieces were vast, sometimes 45 minutes long. Not everything Jarrett tried worked, but it was the gigantic whole, the long journey, that mattered. The exhilaration for listeners came from knowing that they were encountering the towering structure as it was born. Nowadays Jarrett improvises three- and five- and six-minute tunes. The current format engenders less shock and awe, and raises questions about the concept of “spontaneous composition.” Can Jarrett really make up songs on the spot as beautiful as the standards he plays with his trio?

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