Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lover man: Lee Konitz, singing (to) the song


















Last week, on the final night of the Village Vanguard's 80th birthday week, overseen by Jason Moran, I saw Charles Lloyd's quartet play an unreal set at the Village Vanguard. I had a feeling the show was going to be a good one, but I was unprepared for the slashing intensity of the band—Lloyd, Moran, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums—for what Nate Chinen referred to in his spot-on review as its "radical empathy."

The group operated like a team of elite fighter pilots, swooping instantaneously into tight battle formations and then dispersing into looser unities. They played free; they played pretty; they played funky—all with grace and intensity. However extreme, however state-of-the-art the band got, the 77-year-old Lloyd was right there—a veteran whose improvisational reflexes have only grown even sharper, whose sound on the tenor sax has only grown more commanding, fluid and expressive, and whose radiant onstage charisma has only grown more potent as he's aged. (Amen to Nate's observation that "[The band's] slanted rhythmic strategies, indebted to progressive hip-hop production, didn’t throw off Mr. Lloyd any more than the rolling, continuous energies of the set.")

Beyond some limited, yet awed exposure to Lloyd's classic ’60s quartet with Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee and Jack DeJohnette, I don't know his discography well, but this show made me an instant super-fan. It exemplified the fruitful intergenerational friction that is the engine of so much great jazz, from Davis/Shorter/Hancock/Carter/Williams to Heath/Iverson/Street (the latter of which sounded extraordinary at the Vanguard the week prior to Moran's run).

Last night, I saw another fantastic intergenerational band, led by a veteran saxophonist exactly ten years Lloyd's senior: Lee Konitz, who's in the midst of a Jazz Standard run—concluding tonight, Sunday, March 22—with a quintet co-led by trumpeter Dave Douglas, and including pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Ches Smith. The energy of this set couldn't have felt more different from that of the Lloyd set, but there was one key similarity: the performance fully reflected the personality and agenda of its central figure, as though the other players were channeling their voices through Konitz's horn, or inviting Konitz to channel his through their own instruments.

Voices were a key theme during this set. As he did during the Charlie Haden memorial back in January Konitz spent a good portion of the performance singing, scatting wordless melodies, during a set that consisted mostly of his treasured standards—"Lover Man," "Solar" and one or two others—along with a Lennie Tristano theme, "317 E. 32nd St," written on the chord changes of "Out of Nowhere." (Here's a lovely 1952 version of the piece, featuring Tristano, Konitz and Warne Marsh.) Douglas and Oh also joined in the fun, the latter, prompted by Konitz, offering a mellow extended vocal meditation on "How Deep Is the Ocean?"

At first, I regarded these vocal passages as charming interludes, but as the set progressed, I realized that they were in some ways the meat of the set. At the club, I sat with a friend, the accomplished bassist Devin Hoff. Afterward, we talked about how the presence of an elder like Lee Konitz on a bandstand instantly confers legitimacy onto a set of jazz. Hoff, commenting on his own experiences playing standards with older players in the Bay Area, pointed out that these figures have a way of reminding you that standards like the ones we heard last night are actual songs—tunes with lyrics and shapes and sentiments, not simply launch pads for improvisers looking to show off the snazzy tricks they've developed in the practice room.

When Konitz scat-sings, it seems to me that he's not exactly singing the song in question, but singing to the song, serenading it. Part of the Konitz legend is how fixated he is on a core group of standards. Watching him sing, wordlessly, with a weathered but tuneful voice, eyes closed, is to watch a man in love, not so much with the music coming out of him, but with the music in his head, with the song that's fueling his reverie. "How Deep Is the Ocean?" was written in 1932, which makes Konitz's relationship to that song roughly analogous to my own relationship to, say, "Billie Jean." This abstract idea we have of standards, a tome of musical texts brought down from the mount (by Steve Swallow?), must seem rather foreign to the 87-year-old Konitz, a man who experienced many of these songs in their heyday, absorbed them through the air just as we do the pop songs of our age.

That's not to say that Konitz's playing is an afterthought. His sound on the alto is—still, as it seems to have always been—gloriously pillowy, fluid, sweet. (When you hear Lee Konitz live, you realize what the essence of "sweet" really is, and why that doesn't have to be a dismissive term.) Konitz puffs up his cheeks grandly when he plays, and, almost paradoxically, this act yields extreme softness, a sound with a certain kind of tartness of tone (at some moments, I thought of Eric Dolphy, an altoist who seems 180 degrees removed from Konitz but might actually be a good deal closer in spirit) but with a halo of breath around it. His melodies, the songs he sings to the songs he's singing, are precious cargo, and he pads them well for a safe journey.

Last night, his lines intertwined beautifully with Douglas's. The set featured a good amount of conventional solos, but my favorite moments by far were when Konitz and Douglas were improvising together, swooping in and out of one another's flight patterns like birds dancing a duet in the air. At these moments, the star was truly the song in question, and the imaginative feats it inspired in the players, not the players themselves.

The rest of the band played with tenderness and sensitivity. If the Lloyd set was about radical empathy, this set was about radical comfort, about the point at which casualness becomes so absolute, so soul-deep, that it achieves profundity. No obvious—to me, at least—"out" signifiers from any of Konitz's bandmates, all of whom are known for working in such realms to varying degrees. Everyone was on-message, which is not to say obedient or subservient—Ches Smith, for example, still sounded exactly like the drummer who plays in Tim Berne's Snakeoil—but simply conscious of the Lee Konitz Concept and fully committed to seeing it through. (Matt Mitchell shone on the ballads, at times playing duo with Konitz and laying out a handsome harmonic red carpet for him to blow over.) Everyone was there to celebrate these songs, and to celebrate the man who has devoted his entire career to reanimating them at every performance, to making them new not through radical reinvention, but through simple care and attention. Love, really.

/////

*Lee Konitz on singing and playing.

*Ted Panken's invaluable Charles Loyd interviews.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Space and grace: The return of Blind Idiot God


















Jordan N. Mamone, an excellent writer-about-music and a longtime Time Out New York contributor, wrote an exemplary preview of this past Saturday's record-release show by the veteran instrumental band Blind Idiot God, which you can read here. (Spoiler alert re: the concert: I was there, and it was fucking great.) Jordan notes that for the past 20 years or so, "…in-the-know doom and math-rock fans [have whispered Blind Idiot God's] name in reverent tones." I know what he means. For ages, I've heard tons of folks who, like me, gravitate toward these general musical zones, speak/write reverently Blind Idiot God. In the past, I'd checked out their ’80s and ’90s material, and enjoyed bits and pieces of what I'd heard, but for whatever reason, BIG never quite clicked with me. Upon first exposure, their music just didn't lodge in my brain and viscera the way that, say, the instrumental Black Flag material or the Don Caballero catalog did (to cite, respectively, one contemporary and one logical descendant of BIG).

To be fair, I suspect that the hushed-tones phenomenon cited above has been helped along by a few key extramusical factors: 1) Blind Idiot God had the SST / Greg Ginn stamp of approval during a time when that stamp of approval really meant something—a factor like this is always crucial in upping an underground band's cachet. 2) They also had the NYC downtown-scene stamp of approval, via associations with John Zorn and Bill Laswell, which meant that the rogue jazzheads who may not have given bands like Black Flag or Don Cab the time of day seemed to look at BIG as some sort of exception to the rule when it came to progressive, aggressive underground rock. I deeply respect Brian Olewnick's work (his beautifully written blog is only the tip of the iceberg), but I bristle at this phrase in his AllMusic review of BIG's third album, Cyclotron: "While still head and shoulders over most thrash-influenced 'math rock…' " I could of course be sorely mistaken, but this seems like a textbook case of a writer dismissing an entire (sub-)genre without actually having explored the depth and variety of said (sub-)genre. This whole metal/math-rock-for-smart-people concept—i.e., "I'll listen to a Zorn/Laswell-affiliated 'math rock' band like Blind Idiot God, but I won't get to know, say, the Touch and Go or Skin Graft catalogs"—seems deeply suspect to me. (Two qualifications/clarifications: A) in the mid-’80s, when BIG first emerged, their field, so to speak, was far less crowded, so maybe they did seem all that much more special to those who were paying attention, and B) I just want to emphasize that I'm taking issue here with perceived critical snobbishness, not BIG's actual music or aesthetic values.) And 3) Blind Idiot God picked an amazing name. It sounds so wonderfully, perfectly antisocial to proclaim one's self a fan of a band that goes by that Lovecraft-indebted moniker.

Despite my prior ambivalence, I was still mighty intrigued by the news, arriving in late 2014, that BIG would be releasing a comeback album in 2015. The band's current drummer, Tim Wyskida—formerly of the blood-curdlingly intense Khanate—works in my office building, and he and I have become friendly. I knew that BIG had been working on a new record for a while—Bill Laswell, who co-produced the album, mentioned it to me when I interviewed him in 2012—but last I'd heard, the project was in limbo. When I'd ask Tim about a release date, he'd typically laugh and cite the widely reported perfectionism of guitarist-bandleader (and, as of now, sole original member) Andy Hawkins. But here it was: concrete info on an upcoming release.

I'll cut to the chase: The album in question—Before Ever After, available from Hawkins's own Indivisible Music imprint; that's cover you see above—is outstanding, easily one of my favorite records of the young year, and almost certainly the best heavy-, metal- or "extreme music"–related release of the 2015 crop (right now, it's neck-and-neck with Napalm Death's stunning Apex Predator—Easy Meat). Suddenly, all at once, I get Blind Idiot God. I'm officially a member of the hushed-tones club.

Blind Idiot God is still an instrumental band, but as in the old days, there's a certain verbal concept coming through in the song titles: "Earthmover," "Under the Weight," "Wheels of Progress," "Barrage." (The vintage Cyclotron review above touches on the heavy-machinery metaphor too: "The listener feels buffeted about, as if inside a roaring engine at 30,000 feet.") The strange thing about
these associations is how inadequately they capture what, to me, makes Blind Idiot God's music, specifically the music they're making now, great. What I love about Before Ever After is precisely that it doesn't feels monolithic or mechanized, or really heavy in any traditional, metal-oriented sense. Jordan's preview homed in on the aspect(s) of the record I respond to most: "…the LP emphasizes lumbering repetition that infuses the music with increased space and grace. The noisy stuff breathes deeper [i.e., deeper than it did in during BIG's first phase of operation]…" That "breathes" concept is key.

"Wheels of Progress," which you can hear here, is a masterpiece in this regard. The song's snarling intro riff lunges forward in a kind of stumbling rubato time, as though the music were hurling itself against a wall, exhausting itself, panting and then starting over again. The second riff, starting around :30, has a similar kind of organic feel—crunching, grinding to a halt and then sort of melting away into a luminous goo of sound. The guitar and bass intertwine and crane to the sky, Hawkins's notes bending and singing. The track kicks into a more rigorous, propulsive groove, but the respiratory feel of the music remains intact. The middle of the song features a gorgeous ambient interlude, with Hawkins playing a series of delicate and hypnotic melodies, conjuring blissful delirium. The second theme (the one that starts at :30) returns, but it sounds even more spent this time around, less rigorous, almost as if it had warped from exposure to its own heat. If metal is, to take the genre's name at face value, the sound of strength and rigor, Blind Idiot God is the sound of pulsation and flow. The music isn't, to my ears, mechanized; it sounds biological. This record truly does breathe.

A lot of this has to do with Wyskida. The music he's playing with BIG, these avant-heavy dreamscapes, couldn't be more different than what he played with Khanate, which specialized in creeping, crawling gloom. But the two bands do share an especially organic approach. Khanate and BIG differ from 99% of all other rock-/metal-related music in their loose relationship to the idea of metric time. The music's pulse expands and contracts as needed. (In Khanate, that idea was obviously pushed to the absolute extreme.) And Wyskida is one of the rare heavy drummers I've heard, and especially one of the rare double-bass drummers I've heard, who can pummel while also caressing the time, coaxing out its little microdetails. On "Twenty Four Hour Dawn"—the album opener, and also the opener of Saturday's show—Wyskida accompanies Hawkins's harsh, glinting first riff with a sort of dancing, undulating march pattern, a beat that reminds me of Ronald Shannon Jackson in its insistence on a very personal, almost folksy kind of groove contour. At the show, Wyskida played a sizable double-bass kit (interestingly, the left kick drum was slightly smaller than the right), and he hit hard, but he wasn't brutalizing the music like, say, the insanely crushing Eric Neuser, drummer of opening band Gnaw, which features Wyskida's former Khanate bandmate Alan Dubin on vocals. Wyskida's roll-heavy approach brought out the music's impressionistic quality as much as its ferocious aspect. You can hear an example of this at around the 3:30 mark in the recorded version of "Twenty Four Hour Dawn." In one of many thrilling, unexpected changes-of-musical-scenery that occur on Before Ever After, the band breaks into a kind of skipping uptempo groove. And though they keep ramping up the intensity, with Wyskida hammering on the double kicks, the music retains a lightness—to borrow another phrase of Jordan's, a feeling of space and grace. ("Under the Weight" is another great place to hear this odd, intoxicating juxtaposition of buoyancy and aggression.) This record is heavy, yes, but it's also remarkably balletic.

Hawkins's guitarwork is of course another essential component of the BIG sound. Like Wyskida, he's a player who's fully able to bring the pain in a relatively traditional manner—check out "Earthmover," which features a lead riff that's heavily reminiscent of the Melvins' doom-rock classic "Night Goat"—but who's just as concerned with the texture of the sound as with its weight. His best riffs, like the opening theme of "Twenty Four Hour Dawn" or the central pattern in "Barrage," seem to be made of light as much as sound. They glint and burst, flash and dissolve. Occasionally, Hawkins takes a proper solo—there's a glorious, Sonny Sharrock–ian lead outburst around 1:45 into "Twenty Four Hour Dawn"—but he's a player more given to outbursts of texture. There's a gorgeous ambient interlude in "Twenty Four Hour Dawn" (yes, I know I'm citing this track frequently, but it's long and eventful and amazing!), around the 5:00 mark, where the groove drops out, and Hawkins plays these alternately trilling and roaring figures that diffuse and sparkle in the air like handfuls of colored powder. Another track on Before Ever After, "Voice of the Structure," is an abstract solo guitar piece that moves palindromically from near-silence to a buzzing, singing electro-wail and back again. ("Voice of the Structure" harks back to Halo, a solo record that Hawkins issued in 1994 under the name Azonic.) Seeing Hawkins play live was fascinating. The amplification was extreme, as is BIG's wont—see this recent definitive Hawkins interview by another Time Out contributor, Brad Cohan, for more on that—with mountains of guitar and bass cabinets heaped at the back of the stage. And Hawkins employed an insanely large rig and several different, unusually (for underground avant-rock, that is) fancy-looking guitars. No beat-up SGs or Les Pauls here—these were boldly colored, oddly shaped beauties that looked like they might be custom jobs. But like Wyskida, he wasn't out to brutalize. He employed a personal vocabulary of gestures (scraping the pick on the strings above the fretboard, for instance) and chords to conjure a sound that was, yes, huge, but just as importantly, rich, immersive and sensuous. Hearing Hawkins live, I felt more bathed in sound than assaulted with it. And though he's an intimidating-looking guy—stocky, with closed-cropped white hair—his stage presence isn't aggro. He's a painter with sound, seemingly more intent on sculpting the medium for its own sake than infusing it with any kind of extramusical violence. (He speaks to that idea in the Cohan interview: "For me, using music to express emotion is like using a howitzer to kill a fly: It ought not to be necessary, and it's a poor use of the resource.")

The space, the grace, the sense of breathing, they all bring me to the elephant in the room, which is Blind Idiot God's dub proclivity. (If you're not familiar with the group, they've always interspersed their heavy, prog-punk-ish "core" material with humid, sensuous, funky dub.) I admit I'm somewhat wary of this aspect of the BIG aesthetic. What I love about their rock-oriented side, especially on Before Ever After, is how idiosyncratic, how open and unbounded it feels. BIG's dub, to me, feels less personal, oddly conventional for a band so determined to will a fresh sound into being. After many listens through Before Ever After, I'm starting to enjoy the dub material—specifically, tracks like "High and Mighty" and "Night Driver"—in a palate-cleansing sort of way. These tracks do help to pace the record, to make it feel like a journey. (The live show, on the other hand, followed the template of the first, self-titled Blind Idiot God record and sequenced all the dub tracks together at the end—something of a momentum-killer for me.) And the album's excellent sound—this is probably the best-sounding Laswell-related record I've heard—its rich, buttery, spacious massiveness really flatters the tranced-out throb of these tracks. Also, "Strung," the second-to-last track on Before Ever After, which contains elements of both BIG's rock and dub tendencies, hints at the intriguing idea that in the future, these two components of the band's sound might be less segregated.

My personal feelings on the dub element aside, Before Ever After is a fascinating record, one that the current version of the band, rounded out by bassist Will Dahl, brings to roaring, pulsating life onstage. BIG circa 2015 is a band fully at ease with its eccentricity, and maybe more attuned to it than ever. The album indeed fuses avant-rock with a rare kind of space and grace, makes it breathe and throb and pulsate. To me, Before Ever After secures BIG's primacy in the canon of bands that have successfully integrated post-hardcore rock expression with an uncannily organic pulse, a sense that the music is more animal than machine. (Coptic Light and Multitudes both come to mind in this regard; for all I know, both have drawn inspiration from BIG's past work.) Hear the strange way this music moves—not like heavy machinery, but like some oozing, wriggling giant slug—and feel the way it moves you.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Once a seed: Keith Jarrett solo, now


















Last night, I saw Keith Jarrett play solo at Carnegie Hall for the second time. The first such show I saw, in January of 2011, had been, in my view, disastrous. (In short, I actually witnessed the Coughing Wars in the flesh, and they were not pretty.) I chose not to write about that concert at the time, mainly because I knew I would take no pleasure in reliving or recounting it. It's pretty clear that Jon Pareles felt the same, though in his case, he was obligated to file a review.

I'm happy to report that last night's show was far better, both musically and in terms of artist/crowd rapport. Jarrett did display some faintly curmudgeonly behavior, but it was self-aware, mild. He seemingly can't not comment on coughs overheard from the audience, but last night he framed these "incidents" (Jarrett didn't use that term; I use quotes only to indicate where I stand on the matter) as minor improprieties, interruptions to be tsk-tsked but ultimately tolerated with a wry smile. Even when he informed the audience that one coughing outburst had ended a piece prematurely, he portrayed this as serendipity, i.e, just the way things go, an attitude you'd expect him to have embodied all along given his insistence on the purity of improvisation.

I'm ambivalent about foregrounding these extramusical details, but they matter. And that's true because, these days, a Keith Jarrett solo concert is a performance on many levels, not just musical. As with all Keith Jarrett solo concerts, last night's was technically improvised, but I couldn't help feeling as though Jarrett was, on some level, working from a script. Not from a score, but from some innate sense of what these concerts are, to him, at this point in his staggeringly accomplished career. The pieces he played didn't have names, of course, but at times, I felt like I was witnessing a performance of an evening-length work called A Keith Jarret Solo Concert.

Though the mood of the show was mercifully very different from the one I saw in 2011, the rhythm, the procedure of it was quite similar. The lights dim. Jarrett, a relatively tiny figure, strides out from those almost comically large doors at stage left. He walks over to the piano with a sort of self-conscious casualness, hands in pockets. "Oh, you want me to play?" his gestures say. "Well, I suppose I could do that." He chats a bit with the crowd. Last night, Jarrett's banter often touched on his drive to NYC that day, which had apparently been long and arduous.

Then he begins playing. The pieces are on the short side, averaging about four to five minutes. They fall into roughly three categories: the bluesy, earthy, muscular vamp-driven pieces; the searching, and often inconclusive and impenetrable, exploratory pieces, which tend to sound more "modern classical" than "free jazz"; and what I'll call, for lack of a better term, the Pretty Pieces. (Thanks to my friend and colleague Sophie, also in attendance, for helping me to establish this taxonomy.) He plays; he stops; he takes his hands off the keys. And then he stands up and bows, deeply, letting his torso go fully slack, as the audience applauds. This gesture plays up the sort of humblebrag quality that A Keith Jarrett Solo Concert has. "I have scaled Improv Mountain on your behalf, audience; I brought back a mere trifle, but I hope it was to your liking." The implication of heroism, of the artist alone up there on that huge, grand stage, with only his wits and his hands to guide him, is an inescapable part of these shows, and though this unspoken but very present element can be oppressive at times, it does seem more or less accurate—i.e., there is, at base, something heroic about what Jarrett does during these performances.

The great mystery and rapture of A Keith Jarrett Solo Concert comes, in my opinion, chiefly during the Pretty Pieces I cited above. Anyone who has seen one of these performances will know the pieces I mean. There were two that stood out for me last night, the second piece of the evening and roughly the sixth—two or three before intermission. Essentially, these pieces are songs. Improvised, yes, but so exquisite in their design, in the rightness of their melodic and harmonic arc, their adornments, the economy of their motifs (the second of the two pieces I cited above started with a little twinkle of a figure in the highest register of the keyboard and, lovingly, utilized that theme throughout) that it's as if Jarrett were plucking them from a tree like pieces of perfectly ripened fruit. Sometimes he sings along, wordlessly, in that famous and, to some, infamously distracting, vocalization of his—for the record, this habit of Jarrett's doesn't really bother me at all—and the mouth sound seems to reinforce the sense that though what he's playing is in some sense brand-new, it's also a song that both he and the audience already know by heart. The Pretty Pieces tend to have the flavor of ballads—wholesome tearjerkers. Melodramatic, in a sense, but also completely disarming and true. Last night, during these pieces, I kept thinking of the Branford Marsalis composition "Hope," specifically the version that appears on Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, the saxophonist's excellent 2011 duo album with pianist Joey Calderazzo. "Hope" is an almost comically gorgeous piece—one of the most elemental and stirring melodies I've ever heard. Several of the pieces Jarrett played last night felt equally inevitable, equally transporting. Pure magic, from the second he set his hands on the keys to the second he lifted them off. I don't know about heroic, but wizardly seems apt. The idea that a musician could, seemingly at will, distill a piece this right-feeling out of the air is almost scary. What would that feel like, to be able to sit down at the instrument and just, like, do that?

A Keith Jarrett Concert gives the impression that the Muse doesn't answer every time the maestro knocks. Some of last night's pieces were more sketchlike—open-ended, even downright stunted. The gulf between these and the Ones That Work can be frustrating. Couldn't Jarrett conceivably just play a concert of all Pretty Pieces? Hard to say. I'm sure his contention would be that it's out of his hands, pun intended, whether a given piece takes flight, but the rightness of the Pretty Pieces, from note one, is tough to ignore. Yes, he does in fact make it look easy, as though the art of composing a perfect song from scratch were as simple as solving a Rubik's Cube for the thousandth time.

Near the end of the show, in a genuinely affecting moment, Jarrett walked over to the mic in between pieces and said, "Thank you for following my work." He then addressed the elephant in the room, the notion—perfectly conceivable for anyone in attendance in January of 2011—that he "hates the audience." He assured us that none of what we were hearing would've been possible without us present. "You think I play like this in my studio?" This speech too seemed like a preordained part of A Keith Jarrett Concert—a necessary display of contrition and appreciation. But it also felt sincere. It was both welcome and classy, and, for me at least, it served to clear the air. (There had, for the record, been another solo Jarrett show at Carnegie Hall between the ill-fated 2011 one and last night's concert; according to Sophie, Jarrett's demeanor and performance had been exemplary that night in 2012.)

Does A Keith Jarrett Concert grab me the way Jarrett's ’67–’76 material does (see here and here)? No. There's a wild, organic beauty to that work that moves me, revs me up to no end. These days, Jarrett doesn't seem to be walking so close to the ledge, aesthetically. He's flying blind, yes, but I do get the sense that he can, so to speak, play these concerts in his sleep, simply reaching into his endless storehouse of Keith Jarrett Pieces. I realize that it might sound like I'm selling his achievements short, but that's not my intention. I'm just saying that there's something about the "not a hair out of place" quality of his present-day improvisations that both dazzles and stonewalls me. Whereas the ’70s work—and I'm generalizing rampantly here—felt like a man meticulously constructing a stairway to the stars, via compositions that felt so infectiously personal and natural, the current work can feel like a man ascending the very same stairway, i.e., one he's already built and ascended countless other times. There's an inevitability to A Keith Jarrett Solo Concert that, to me, feels the slightest bit canned.

The Pretty Pieces, though. Those exquisite sensations. Recalling them now is like recalling a bath in a hot springs. You really can't get that feeling anywhere else. At his best, Keith Jarrett has always been a genre of one, and that singularity was on display last night. He's a complicated figure—at times, a tedious one. But his achievement, the Idea of Piano that he's brought into the world, is undeniable, and still strong. It exists, persists, and you can go see it. Admire the perfection and sturdiness of it, almost as though it were a thing growing out of the ground. It's hard not to see the full, flowering splendor every time you look, but it's worth remembering that A Keith Jarrett Solo Concert was once a seed. It came about gradually. All the years of apprenticeship. Charles Lloyd, Miles, the American and European Quartets, the Standards Trio. The decades of solo performances. (Interesting to note that the 40th anniversary of the famed K├Âln Concert was this past January 24.) It all fed into this, and it's all there, if you look and listen closely. A Keith Jarrett Solo Concert is not inevitable, preordained, even if it can seem that way. It happens now because Jarrett has willed it to happen, year by year, moment by moment, right up to the present.