Jule Styne’s “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” The Keith Jarrett Trio

Today marks the 116th anniversary of the birth of the great American songwriter, Jule Styne (1905-1994). Born in London, Styne grew up in Chicago, the son of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants. He was a child prodigy pianist, performing with the orchestras of Chicago and Detroit before age ten. Later, he played jazz, withdrawing from the concert stage because of the limitations of his small hands. He created the scores for some of the Broadway theater’s …

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Keith Jarrett: “My Song,” 1978

Keith Jarrett’s My Song is infused with a sublime simplicity and directness. It first appeared as the title track on a 1978 studio album featuring Jarrett with his “European Quartet.” (The collaboration involved the Scandinavian jazz musicians, Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen). Over the years, My Song returned in Jarrett’s improvisatory solo piano concerts. It has become a standard with other jazz artists such as guitarist Pat Metheny. Here is a performance from Keith Jarrett’s December 12, …

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Brahms’ Three Intermezzi, Op. 117: Autumnal Lullabies

Composed in 1892, the three Intermezzi for solo piano, Op. 117 are among the final works of Johannes Brahms. Filled with wistful nostalgia, they were written two years after Brahms’ formal retirement at the age of 57. The critic Eduard Hanslick described these brief autumnal works as “monologues” of a “thoroughly personal and subjective character…pensive, graceful, dreamy, resigned, and elegiac.” Brahms once described them as “three lullabies to my sorrow.” Along with …

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Keith Jarrett: Encore from Tokyo

I cannot say what I think is right about music. I only know the rightness of it. -Keith Jarrett The American pianist and composer Keith Jarrett (b. 1945) began his career performing with Art Blakey, Charles Lloyd, and Miles Davis. He remains firmly rooted in jazz. Yet, when you venture into the magical world of Jarrett’s solo piano improvisations, the shackles of category fall away. Pure music remains, with echoes of Debussy, …

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Chopin’s Berceuse and the Music of Bill Evans

Listen to Frédéric Chopin’s D-flat major Berceuse, Op. 57, completed in 1844, and you might get the uncanny feeling that you’re hearing a jazz improvisation. As its title suggests, on one level, Chopin’s masterwork is a dreamy, gently rocking lullaby. Until the final cadence, it’s built on a sublime harmonic oscillation made up of just two chords. It begins with a serene melody which seems to anticipate the Gymnopédies of Erik Satie, published …

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Keith Jarrett’s Improvisation on “Danny Boy”

With Saint Patrick’s Day around the corner, this seems like a good time to pause and take in the sublime beauty of Keith Jarrett’s improvisation on the ancient Irish melody, “Danny Boy.” This melody has been a rich source for jazz musicians, from the jubilant virtuosity of Art Tatum, to the sultry soulfulness of the Oscar Peterson Trio, to the far-reaching development of Bill Evans. Jarrett’s approach finds a songful simplicity and a celebration of the moment. Listening to …

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Keith Jarrett: “Ol’ Man River”

Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple. -Keith Jarrett Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert were all masters of keyboard improvisation- the ability to use a well known melody as the basis for completely new, spontaneous music. Perhaps no one alive today continues that tradition more eloquently than jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. Jarrett describes the process in mystical terms. He says that his hands take over …

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