(All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
For over forty years Keith Jarrett has been performing concerts with just him and his piano and the tradition continues with Jarrett's new release Testament recorded live in Paris and London in late 2008. In the world of jazz Jarrett is a household name and is an immensely talented pianist. In these two concerts Jarrett touches on other styles besides jazz including gospel, classical and the blues.
The package also includes liner notes where Jarrett bares his soul as he gives personal reflection on his solo concerts, his physical health and the leaving of his third wife and how his life had become an emotional roller coaster ride. Given his emotional state entering these concerts it is a testament to Jarrett that he is able to pull them off with the utmost class and style. Perhaps that was what fed his creativity as there is a spontaneity in his playing that is quite impressive. The compositions presented here are mostly improvisations which is a feat in and of itself.
There is a lot of music to absorb in this sprawling three CD set with Disc 1 devoted to his Paris concert on November 26, 2008 and discs 2 and 3 focusing on his London concert just a few days later on December 1. The Paris concert seems to be slightly less accessible as the playing has an element of discord on many of the tracks and the melodies are not as immediate. One has to dig through the surface a little deeper here but there is still beauty to be found like the rollicking piano melody in "Part II" or the build up of sound Jarrett is able to create in "Part III".
The melodies are more profound in the London concert on discs 2 and 3. "Part I" features a beautiful, heartwarming melody and is more jazzy in scope. The gospel influenced "Part III" is another highlight as are the funky and blues inflected grooves of "Part VII". In "Part VIII" Jarrett is able to create delightful walls of piano goodness set against a moving melody that only further demonstrates his prowess on the instrument. My personal favourite is the irresistible Part "XII" and its nostalgic feel good grooves.
While I enjoyed some tunes over others, this set works well as a whole, and the recording quality is excellent. What might bother some people are the occasional vocalizations from Jarrett although I did not really find these distracting and might even give the music a more 'human' feel.
Overall this is a fine addition to the ECM catalogue and showcases one of the true piano talents of our time. Recommended to anyone who likes instrumental piano music.
(originally reviewed for http://www.seaoftranquility.org)