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.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

    Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

    Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

    £21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

    KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

    £110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape