I viewed Keith Jarrett: The Art of Improvisation earlier this month, and my editors have been hounding me for the few comments I promised, so here they are:
The Köln Concert was not supposed to be good. Keith Jarrett had not slept for two days, and the piano he wanted was nowhere to be found. The one on which he was to play had an overly-bright sound.
But what happened? Something cool. It was a great concert, albeit maybe a little different than standard Jarrett fare, and went on to be one of the best selling Jazz records ever.
Going from zero to zero. That's how Jarrett defines improvisation. His solo improvisations (different than his standards work with his trio) are not based on pre-existing material.
When performing the Mozart double concerto with Chick Corea in Japan, Jarrett chose to use composed cadenzas rather than create his own. His point being, again, that improvisation should not have a relationship to the printed page. It is separate from it.
The Art of Improvisation is a little bit more of a biopic than I would have preferred, but for someone who has improvised during his whole career, this is probably unavoidable. The film traces Jarrett's frantic, random keyboard gyrations in Stockholm, through his meticulous crafting of The Melody at Night with You from within the grips of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The film is also a presentation that is in line with Jarrett's philosophy of improvisation.
Jarrett refers to improvisation as an exercise that involves the whole person. He dismisses the idea that "music comes from music." That's like saying that "babies come from babies." It's just not true.
(Comments from the DVD viewing end here.)
Well, babies do come from babies. The babies from which they come, however, are just really old.
In the same sense then music does come from music, just not in the way we might want to think. Certainly music, hearing it, practicing it, performing it, is something that affects the whole person. If this same affected person then improvises, then his or her improvisation is then, in some sense, coming from music (but also literature, theology, culinary experiences, encounters with police, rodents, being stuck in traffic, getting rejection letters, alcohol, rubbing alcohol, model trains, full-size trains, small towns, full-size towns, sea shells, astronomy, etc.)
Improvisational Influence Tangent: Yes, I may have to use this new song as improvisation fodder on Sunday. But wait a minute, isn't Hasselhoff driving KITT on the wrong side?
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