Jazz: Sweet essence of Cologne

Phil Johnson listens to old and new from Keith Jarrett and material from Tubby Hayes' vintage Ronnie Scotts recordings

On 24th January 1974, the American pianist Keith Jarrett travelled from Lausanne, Switzerland, to Cologne, Germany, to play a solo concert which his record label, ECM, had arranged to have taped. As Ian Carr relates in his 1991 biography, Jarrett arrived at the venue having had no sleep the night before, to find that the Bosendorfer piano that had been booked was the wrong one. It was, Jarrett remembered, "like a poor imitation of a harpsichord or a piano with tacks in it". As there was no possibility of getting the correct piano delivered in time and the equipment was already set up, Jarrett doubtfully consented to the recording going ahead, with the aim of making a private document of the event. After a failed attempt at a nap and an indigestible meal in a crowded Italian restaurant, Jarrett went on stage feeling, he said, as if he was about to fall asleep at any minute.

Released later that year as a double-album, The Koln Concert, went on to become the best selling solo piano album ever, in any genre, racking up close to two million copies and still selling steadily today. Used in the soundtrack to Nic Roeg's film Bad Timing of 1980, and regularly excerpted in film and television ever since, the music is a marvel of sustained, lyrical, improvisation, with Jarrett hammering the keys of the dodgy grand into beautifully limpid, sometimes country-tinged, harmonic shapes that really make the piano sing, especially in the transcendent opening passages. It's the one jazz solo piano record that every home should have, and the perfect ambient accompaniment to coffee and croissants on a lazy Sunday morning.

Over the last decade, Jarrett's once astoundingly prolific stream of albums has slowed to a trickle, and each new release is therefore something of an event. He has also tended to divide his recordings between performances of the classical piano repertoire, especially Bach and Mozart, and the jazz of his "Standards" trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, which in 1983 began a series of albums of improvisations on familiar show-tunes and Tin Pan Alley songs.

Whether this reliance on material composed by others represents a kind of mid-life crisis for Jarrett, who was 53 last week, is a moot point, but his new Standards Trio album, Tokyo '96 (ECM), and yet another live recording, is so triumphantly good that you cease to care. The closing sequence, where "My Funny Valentine" merges into Jarrett's own "Song" bridged by a masterful bass solo by Peacock, creates a dreamy, aesthetic, haze that is so beautiful it almost hurts to listen to it. Unusually, Jarrett also plays bebop, covering Charlie Parker's "Biliie's Bounce" and Bud Powell's "John's Abbey", and he swings like the clappers throughout. A version of the kitsch classic "Mona Lisa" is made into a kind of quiet prayer, and there's even the odd key-hammering reference to The Koln Concert. Unfortunately, Jarrett also does what his fans fear most: he sings, whining nasally as he plays like Glenn Gould, only much, much, worse. Happily, it's relatively infrequent and therefore a small price to pay for such a return to form.

The saxophonist, vibes-player and composer Tubby Hayes, who died in 1973 aged 38, may well have been the greatest British jazz musician of the century; certainly he was the best bopper, and the only one to reach the kind of parity with American musicians that his generation regarded as the true measure of success. He deputised for Paul Gonsalves in Duke Ellington's orchestra, played regularly in New York, and recorded with Clark Terry and Roland Kirk, as well as leading small groups and a big band. He even becoming a popular personality with his own television shows in the early Sixties. Later, the jazz life took its toll and he suffered recurrent heart trouble, dying while undergoing surgery. By chance, I recently met Hayes's drummer in his later years, Michael "Spike" Wells. By way of making polite conversation, I asked him whether Hayes had suffered from a kind of spiritual crisis. "No", Wells said. "He just loved drugs and drink.'

Now, Verve Records have released two of Hayes's old albums on CD as the first titles in their new "Redial" series of classic British jazz, which also promises to make available the legendary recordings of Jamaican saxophonist Joe Harriott, who arrived at a form of free jazz at the same time, but quite independently of, Ornette Coleman. The Hayes albums, Late Spot at Scott's, and Down In The Village, (Redial, CD) are both quintet dates from sessions recorded live at Ronnie Scott's club over two nights in 1962, and the original records on the Fontana label have become among the most sought after of all British vinyl artefacts.

The music is in a hard bop, Jazz Messengers, vein (Hayes had formed the British riposte to Blakey's Messengers, the Jazz Couriers, with Ronnie Scott in 1957), but Hayes's arrangements are both distinctive and effective, and his playing on tenor and soprano sax marvellously fluent. Occasional features for his vibes offer a fine and mellow contrast, and Jimmy Deuchar's trumpet sounds as sharp as a razor. Like the soundtrack to an imaginary Soho film noir, the music summons up a lost world of narrow-lapelled suits, ex-National Service skivers, and cool American music played heroically against the very grey grain of Macmillan's pre-Beetles England.

News
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food and drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Voices
A Siberian Tiger
voices
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
science
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Agile Tester

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

    SAP BW BO

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

    HSE Manger - Solar

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried