Keith Jarrett: Solo Concerts Bremen-Lausanne
(ECM Luminessence vinyl series 602445053254 . 3 LP set .Album review by Phil Johnson)
Less celebrated than the multi-million selling Koln Concert of 1975, but in no way inferior, the two 1973 live concert performances collected in the three LP box set Solo Concerts: Bremen-Lausanne inaugurated an extended golden period of the solo Keith Jarrett’s almost unbelievable productivity and brilliance. The Koln double album followed in 1975, and the ten LP Sun Bear Concerts in 1978. Now reissued on the 50th anniversary of the original release as part of ECM’s superlative new audiophile vinyl series, Luminessence, the recordings get a well-deserved opportunity to shine again. And it’s a revelatory experience: they sound absolutely wonderful, and even better than I remembered from occasional listenings to my original LPs. Bought second hand, their enclosing cardboard box has not worn well.
His ECM debut with Facing You in 1971 had established Jarrett’s mastery of the solo format but that was a studio recording, still based around individual tunes rather than long-haul improv. With Bremen-Lausanne – the first of Jarrett’s live recordings to be issued by the label, who had previously cancelled the planned release of earlier concerts because they were doubtful about the technical quality – we get the full-on epic, and we get it twice. The ecstatic lyricism that became Jarrett’s solo signature is here in abundance, but unlike Koln, where an imperfect yet pleasingly idiosyncratic instrument made him stick to the middle of the keyboard, there’s real full-width chromaticism. In addition, Jarrett’s emotive lyric mode comes mixed in with blues, barrelhouse and boogie from the jazz piano’s past as well as those trademark gospel-influenced elongated vamps that he will forever be associated with.
Recorded for broadcast by German and Swiss radio respectively, and mixed by ECM for its first edition on vinyl late in 1973, with a production credit shared by Manfred Eicher and Keith Jarrett, the box-set was voted Downbeat Album of the Year in 1974. The newly re-released recordings sound perhaps even better than before – the Luminessence standards of pressing have been unimpeachable so far – and the facsimile box looks sturdier than my now rather crushed original.
As to the contents: it’s all of an amazingly high standard, but the opening Bremen side, and the closing Lausanne, are of a different order entirely, totally out there, on a level of genius-quality improvising that it’s hard to credit. You can recognise little motifs that will re-emerge in later recordings with the European Quartet, and there’s an inevitable sense that the improvisations stitch together smaller, individual cells of creativity into a longer, sustained movement that fills out a performance half, or the side of an edited LP; but the energy, the endurance, the pulling the rabbit out of the hat theatricality of these performances can’t be denied. What a pianist, and what a document. Fifty years old, and appropriately for a box-set, it sounds entirely box-fresh.
LINK Solo Concerts Bremen Lausanne at Proper Music / Release date 27 October 2023
Not yet a subscriber of our Wednesday Breakfast Headlines?
Join the mailing list for a weekly roundup of Jazz News.