Keith Jarrett was born on May 8, 1945 in Allentown, Pennsylvania and was a prodigy from the start. At the age of three he began piano lessons and by the time Jarrett was five years old he appeared on a television talent show. Keith gave his first formal recital at seven years old featuring classical pieces as well as some of his own compositions. Keith took to Jazz very quickly in his teens years inspired partly due to hearing Dave Brubeck play. Jarrett even had an offer to study classical composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger but instead decided to pursue Jazz. After high school Keith spent a year at Berklee College of Music before realizing he was ready to start his career and moved to New York.
Art Blakey hired Jarrett to join the Jazz Messengers and he also joined Charles Lloyd’s quartet in the 1960s as well which included Jack DeJohnette. In the mid to late 1960s Keith also began leading his own groups and recorded his first album as a leader in 1967 called ‘Life Between the Exit Signs’ with Paul Motian and Charlie Haden. Lloyd’s quartet broke up in 1969 and shortly after Jarrett was hired by Miles Davis to play Fender Rhodes and organ. Keith can be heard with Miles on the albums ‘Live-Evil’, ‘Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East’, ‘Get Up With It’ and ‘The Cellar Door Sessions’. Meanwhile Jarrett continued to lead his own groups now with Dewey Redman along with Haden, Motian and one of several percussionists including Airto Moreira. Often in this band the members would play different instruments and Keith can even be heard on Soprano Saxophone during this time. In 1971 they recorded the albums ‘El Juicio’ and ‘Birth’. In the mid 1970s Keith changed up his group and began performing with Jan Garbarek, Paul Danielsson and Jon Christensen.
Jarrett made his first solo album in 1971 called ‘Facing You’ and has recorded many albums of this kind through out his career. Some of the other solos albums include ‘Staircase’ in 1976, ‘The Moth and the Flame’ in 1981, and ‘The Melody at Night, With You’ in 1999. In addition to these studio albums Jarrett would perform complete solo performances of improvisation and some of these worth checking out include ‘The Koln Concert’ in 1975, ‘Sun Bear Concerts’ the next year and ‘Dark Intervals’ in 1987. In the 1980s Keith formed a trio with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock and recorded a series of albums of standards that became very popular including ‘Standards, Volume 1’, ‘Standards, Volume 2’, and ‘Changes’ in addition to touring internationally. This group continued together for quite some time playing straight ahead Jazz as well as free and their 2001 albums ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Always Let Me Go’ are completely improvised live performances though listening to way this trio interacts with each other one might not know it. It is also important to note to understand the complete genius of Jarrett that since 1970 he has been composing and recording classical works as well as performing in the most prestigious classical venues around the world. In 2004 Jarrett received the Leone Sonning Music Prize which is only given to classical musicians aside from Jarrett and Miles Davis. The first winner of this prize was Igor Stravinsky.
Keith Jarrett still performs internationally to this day and his incredible legacy is still being formed. In 2003 he received the Polar Music Prize and in 2008 Keith was elected into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. Just a few of the other honors Jarrett has received include a Guggenheim Fellowship, Prix du President de la Republique and Grand Prix du Disque awards from the Academie Charles Cros, seven Deutscher Schallplattenpries, eight Grammy nominations in both the jazz and classical categories and he was elected to be Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Keith Jarrett is one of our greatest living masters and a genius of life and music. Throughout his life and career he has managed to touch the hearts and souls of millions of people internationally and continues spreading his light as only he can do.
“Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple.”
“I cannot say what I think is right about music. I only know the rightness of it.”
“Once we're inside a tune, we can do anything with it.” – Keith Jarrett