Keith Jarrett – The Köln Concert

What makes a great Sunday Morning Album?  That could depend on what precedes or succeeds that given Sunday.  Perhaps, you made it through a rough school, parenting or work week.  Maybe even a long night out and awoke to the consequences.  Sometimes you just need something to kickstart the next week.   The Sunday Morning Album is a genre and vibe to itself.  I prefer gentle, melodic, ambient sounds to combat and give rest to my interminable Rabelasian being.  There may not be a perfect fit for every mood, but The Köln Concert can be very therapeutic. 

Set in Cologne, Germany, the Live recorded concert is an improvisational solo piano performance.  No score.  The concert began at 11:30 pm after an opera to 1400 attendees.  This magical performance shouldn’t have happened.  Jarrett was on a touring route around Europe and demanded one day of rest between shows as the performances were physically grueling.  He had played the night before in Switzerland and was told he had to play this show the following night.  Having major sleep issues like your dear dad, Jarrett was in no shape to perform.  To make matters worse, there was a screw up with the promoter (a young teenage girl mind you) and Jarrett’s airline ticket never arrived.  He had to take a car ride in a beat up Renault to Cologne.  With his back in traction, Jarrett was suited up with a brace and was setting to warm up when it was discovered that the Köln opera house had delivered the wrong piano (a baby Grand, not the concert Grand he had been playing all tour).  Also the piano was badly out of tune and the pedals were busted.  Jarrett played a few notes and decided it was not possible he could play on the “instrument.”  Jarrett walked out of the Opera House and headed to his hotel.  The promoter, Vera Brandes, chased after him weeping, begging for him to play.  Legend has it that in the freezing, pouring rain, Jarrett stated.  “Ok, only for you.”  Jarrett would go on to give the performance of a lifetime.  Imagine Joe Burrow with a torn ACL, a new Center, no communication with his Offensive Coordinator yet throwing 4 Touchdowns and winning a National Championship.  Tacky but relatable analogy.  This album is one of the most lauded and best selling Jazz albums ever.

I love Jarrett’s grit mixed with his whimsy.  You can hear his audible grunts, pedal thumps and his humming ahead of the melody, as what is in his head makes its way down to his fingers.  Jarrett brings to life a captivating trance over 2 pieces and 4 parts.  Such a beautiful balance of pain and beauty.  Life can be very punishing physically and emotionally, but you never know what’s possible if you give up.  Sunday Mornings…always perfect for resetting and getting the balance back.

Favorite Tracks: Full album.  One Sitting.
Pressing: ECM Records – ECM 1064/65.  Original Pitman. 1975