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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Dave Brubeck at 100

Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the American jazz pianist and composer, Dave Brubeck (1920-2012). Born in Concord, California, Brubeck grew up on his father’s cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. He served in Patton’s Army during the Second World War, forming and leading one of the armed forces’ first racially integrated bands. Following the war, Brubeck studied composition at Mills College with the French composer, Darius …

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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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Gershwin’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Art Tatum in 1949

Holding hands at midnight ‘Neath a starry sky Nice work if you can get it And you can get it if you try Ira Gershwin’s famous lyric is not about work in the occupational sense. The song’s verse rejects “the man who only lives for making money” and who “works for fame.” Instead, it is the more spiritually informed work of building a loving relationship. The song’s narrator seems to have all of …

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Charlie Parker at 100

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Charlie Parker (1920-1955), the American jazz saxophonist and composer. Nicknamed “Bird,” Parker grew up in the thriving Kansas City jazz culture of the 1930s where all night sessions featured such musicians as Count Basie, Lester Young, and Mary Lou Williams. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, he is credited with the birth of bebop, an uptempo style characterized by intense virtuosity, complex harmonic progressions, and …

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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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