Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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D. Cohen-Lévinas, ed.: Michael Jarrell (Paris, 1992)

P. Szendy: ‘De Trei à Rhizomes, manuscrits inédits de Michael Jarrell’, Genesis, revue internationale de critique génétique, iv (Paris, 1993), 159–87


Jarrett, Keith

(b Allentown, PA, 8 May 1945). American jazz pianist and composer. He began learning the piano at the age of three, and by the time he was seven had presented a full recital and was composing and improvising. He played professionally throughout his elementary school years, and during his teens toured for one season as piano soloist with Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians. In 1962 he moved to Boston, where he spent a year, on a scholarship, studying at Berklee College of Music. He then began working in the Boston area with his own trio and also with such visiting artists as Tony Scott and Roland Kirk. He moved to New York in 1965 but, having decided to avoid commercial work, was scarcely noticed until Art Blakey heard him during a jam session at the Village Vanguard. He joined Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in December of that year and stayed with them for four months, gaining critical notice and making his first recording with an established group, Buttercorn Lady (1966, Lml).

Jarrett rose to international acclaim as a member of the quartet led by saxophonist Charles Lloyd (1966–9). One of the first groups to explore a broad range of improvisational styles, Lloyd’s quartet attracted a large youthful following extending as far as the USSR, where it toured in 1967; Jarrett’s flawless technique, intense lyricism and total physical involvement with the piano were among its strongest assets, as may be heard on the album Forest Flower (1966, Atl.). Jarrett also played the soprano saxophone and percussion for Lloyd, a practice he has continued throughout his career. From 1970 to 1971 he worked with Miles Davis, first on electric organ while Chick Corea was playing the electric piano (as on Miles at Filmore, 1970, Col.), then playing both instruments after Corea left the group (Live Evil, 1970, Col.). Jarrett made good use of Davis’s frequent periods of inactivity to work and record with his own band, which included Charlie Haden, Paul Motian and later Dewey Redman and had a fruitful performing and recording career until 1976. Although encompassing a much broader stylistic range, their music revealed a strong kinship with the earlier work of Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Ornette Coleman.

In 1972 Jarrett began performing solo concerts which consisted simply of two extended improvisations, each usually 30 to 45 minutes in length (for example, Solo Concerts, Bremen/Lausanne, 1973, ECM). The music spanned a rich variety of traditions, but was developed in a manner that seemed holistic rather than merely eclectic, illuminating Jarrett’s reference to his work as universal folk music. Through the international success of these concerts he became the only jazz artist of the 1970s to capture a mass audience without conforming to commercial trends. Furthermore he spearheaded a revival of interest in acoustic music, having refused to play electronic instruments since he left Davis’s band. Avoiding easy categorization, his projects remain extremely varied. He has played in a highly acclaimed quartet with Jan Garbarek and in a trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, recorded solo improvisations on the pipe organ and two volumes of standards (Standards, 1983, ECM) and performed works from the classical piano repertory, such as Barber’s Piano Concerto. His own compositions include pieces for classical chamber groups, symphony orchestra and orchestra with improvising soloists.

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