Last December's Royal Festival Hall concert by Keith Jarrett was marked by a higher than usual level of agitation which, the pianist reveals in his sleevenote to this 3CD set, was partly due to his emotional state at the time: recently separated from his wife for the third time in four years, he found the Christmas preparations of couples in London too much to bear.
Whatever the cause, the performance was extraordinary, ranging from bluesy ruminations and almost sentimental reflections to remarkable, amorphous flowing runs which recalled clouds of starlings constantly changing shape and direction. The second set was an astonishing event which Jarrett acknowledges as "a throbbing, never-to-be-repeated, pulsing rock band of a concert". Demonstrating the full range and power of Jarrett's improvisational abilities, it incorporated a ballad at once limpid and florid, a bluesy bagatelle packed with tumbling runs, and a couple of the heavily rhythmic vamp-based pieces that have been his stock-in-trade. Both sets are accompanied here by the Paris concert from a few days earlier, in which his darting flurries seem urgent but distracted, while the distinctive moans and groans that are such a familiar part of his performance seem more like little sighs of resignation. A precious testament to a feverish musical imagination.
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