Keith Jarrett – Rio ★★★★★

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Keith Jarrett(ECM)

Keith Jarrett (p). Rec. 9 April 2011

Is this Keith Jarrett’s finest solo recording to date? It could well be. Recorded in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year, it has been rush released by ECM simply because Jarrett and ECM (Manfred Eicher) believe it to be, and having lived with this music for a few weeks now, it gets harder to disagree with every listening. This is Jarrett spinning spontaneously conceived melodies effortlessly and actually weaving them into forms that sound like a well known standard whose title you can’t quite remember. This remarkable feat is achieved a few times on the recording, although it doesn’t start off like that. Beginning with a stark, bi-tonal improvisation that’s rather like a cold plunge after a sauna, this bracing opening gives way to some of Jarrett’s most magic music making on record. On it, he assumes the storyteller’s mantle. There is an arc to each of this two-CD set, representing the first and second half of the concert, and on it something of the Brazilian culture seems to creep into the second CD as it progresses, the crowd love it, it is compulsive listening, and you just have to keep returning to it, not one track in isolation but a whole CD at a time. Marvellous stuff.

– Stuart Nicholson