Album #331 – The Koln Concert

Album #331

The back story behind this album is fascinating. The concert took place late at night because it was the only time available. The hall in Koln, Germany ended up being filled and Jarrett was the first Jazz artist to play in Koln’s Opera Hall. The piano he requested ended up never arriving and the one that was used was in bad shape. It took hours to make it playable and even after that there were still defects. Jarrett almost did not play but he eventually went on stage and made the best of it. What we are left with is an amazing, hour long improvisational concert. Even the recording process of the concert is amazing. The Koln Concert was recorded on two mics that went into a tape machine. Simple, yet effective. Jarrett’s playing evokes so many different moods: happy, sad, angry, ecstatic, mellow, introspective, quiet, loud, soft and heavy. One unique quirk on this album is Jarrett’s humming and grunts as he is playing. They are barely audible but, these unusual sounds add a touch of imperfection to an otherwise perfect concert. According to Jarrett, these quirks serve as an interaction with the music. The album is split into three parts: Part I, Part II’s sub-parts a and b and Part II sub part c. Part IIc is actually the only part of this concert that was not improvised and it served as an encore. The style in which Jarrett plays moves from Blues and gospel one minute to Jazz and Classical the next. This reminded me so much of The Allman Brothers Band. Despite the fact that these two artists are worlds apart, their improvisations go from one style to the next in a matter of moments and the songs never end the same way as they began. I can easily see why this is one of the biggest selling Jazz albums of all time. The compositions are brilliant and Jarrett deserves a medal for coming up with them on the spot. In fact, Jarrett refused to publish sheet music of the improvised material from the Koln Concert for several years, citing it’s spontaneous nature. I really enjoyed this album because it reminded me of one important thing about music: it can take you places where other media (books, TV, movies) cannot go. Overall, I give the Koln Concert, 5 out of 5.

Next: Toys In The Attic by Aerosmith

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