Keith Jarrett in San Francisco

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As a piano player, there are several jazz pianists I absolutely adore and admire. I say “my favorite” too much, but.. I do have lots and lots of favorites – Hiromi, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Michel Camilo, McCoy Tyner, and the list goes on and on. To be honest, I didn’t listen to Keith Jarrett as much as I listen to other pianists. I’m a Spotify user, and I love getting access to a lot of jazz albums, but for some reason, not a lot of Keith Jarrett’s albums are on Spotify, so I didn’t try hard enough to explore Keith Jarrett’s musical world. Then I listened to “What Is This Thing Called Love” by Keith Jarrett Trio (if you haven’t, definitely check it out! His left hand playing 6th’s is so good. So. Good.), and that’s when I seriously started digging this genius.

I sometimes wish that I were born in the 1960s and lived in NYC, so I could’ve seen all the jazz legends perform at awesome jazz venues. But… I’m a 90s baby, so I have to rely on YouTube or used DVDs that I can buy pretty cheap. Fortunately, there are still some jazz legends that are still alive and are actively touring around the world! I’ve seen Chick Corea many times, and I actually played the same piano and improvised with Chick on the stage once!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 and I saw Wayne Shorter, Arturo Sandoval, Dave Weckl, Brad Mehldau … a lot of great artists!! I really hope to see Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, McCoy Tyner soon, too.. But anyways. I looked up if Keith Jarrett was having any shows near Arizona in April, and I found out that he’s having a show in San Francisco!! It was the beginning of May, hosted by SF Jazz, and I really wanted to make it, so I looked up the plane tickets. Luckily, it was a sale season so I got really cheap plane tickets!!! Then I originally was going to stay at a place via Airbnb, but a friend of mine is going to UCSF, so I hit him up and he was totally cool with letting me stay!! So even though I had another trip to Chicago coming up in May, I decided to go to San Francisco 5/1-3. It was a short trip, but I absolutely loved the city, and I’m going to make a post about my San Fran trip since I had such a great time in the Bay area!!

Back to Keith Jarrett concert… It was a solo concert, not the trio, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The venue was at the Davies Symphony Hall, which was very pretty! I really wanted to sit closer to the stage, but since I’m a poor grad student, I couldn’t afford it. I got super lucky that the plane tickets were very reasonable and I didn’t have to pay for the place to stay! The concert started a little after 7:30pm, and the concert hall was very dark and dim. All the lights were just for Keith Jarrett, and it was pretty cool. He started with a tune that was completely in a free form. I was very confused and lost because I couldn’t understand what he was doing, where he was going, and what message he was trying to convey. All I could sense was that he was exploring all 88 keys, very freely. If you have watched the videos of Keith Jarrett’s performance, or even have attended to his concerts, you would know that he is very vocal when he starts to improvise. That was hard to miss because he was making all those singing noises and dancing around the keys while he was playing. I thought that was cool and it didn’t bother me to concentrate on his performance at all. It was even entertaining to watch him getting into his musical world!

He spoke a lot between tunes – he was pretty funny and threw lots of jokes at us. At some point, he said something like, “I don’t even know what I’m doing.” and I really could tell that he was just so lost in music and trying to express what he was feeling at that moment! From that point, I decided not to understand what he was doing harmonically and technically, and instead, I tried to just soak myself into his music and let him guide me. And it worked. I could really appreciate the sounds he was producing, and it was really blowing my mind. I was deeply impressed and touched by how he can be both sophisticated and simple at the same time! But I could see why some people would get so confused and not enjoy the concert – I’ve actually heard some people saying that during the intermission. I mean.. it wasn’t like a typical jazz show where musicians play a bunch of jazz standards that people are familiar with, or their originals that have structures (melody, solo, melody, etc..), so I can understand why people could be lost or disappointed. But I really appreciated the concert when Keith Jarrett said, “I practice every night, and I do practice to have this in front of you, audience. And I’m grateful that you can handle it.” It’s not verbatim to what he exactly said, but I was very moved that he really appreciates his audience! He played a short version of “In Your Own Sweet Way” to give us a little bit of jazz, and he did 3 encores, ending the night with “Over the Rainbow.” It really was a great concert, he shared his own musical journey by playing the most beautiful reharmonized chords and 5 downs, and by showing the freedom he can have while he’s touching all 88 keys. I was highly inspired by Keith Jarrett, and I’m very glad I got to see his solo concert in a beautiful city, San Francisco!

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