Saturday, June 13, 2009

2000 : 23 "The Koln Konzert," by Vert (covering Keith Jarrett)

For those unfamiliar with Keith Jarrett's solo piano performances, here's what you need to know: one man, one piano, a packed house—a date with genius, or not. Some of Jarrett's solo improvisatory performances are monuments to how a virtuoso bent on self-exploration can startle an audience into rapture and recognition (The Köln Concert, Vienna Concert), while some are monuments to how said virtuoso might never pass through fertile terrain on the journey (Paris Concert). What interests me about them is that—unlike Vert's stellar glitch interpretation/deconstruction/celebration of Jarrett's renowned '75 Köln concert—the solo performances exhibit a familiar (and comforting, I must say) orientation toward the self: we're repositories for discovery, 99% pure at the core, if not completely knowable then at least available where it counts if the vision-quest is vigorous enough. Very '70s, very Romantic—and not bad at all in my estimation. But Vert's The Köln Konzert takes Jarrett into the 21st century. And though it's less searching and dramatic, it's no less triumphant. Whereas Jarrett's tendency in the solo performances is to vamp for an extended period over one or two repeated chords until something clicks and he takes off in a flurry of improvisation, Vert, in his own solo Köln concert (FYI, performed in a Köln bar) isolates and simplifies critical Jarrett motifs, blends them with the requisite digital whirrs and glimmers of the genre...and produces entrancing music. The piece gets its power from the way Vert plays on the listener’s memory of Jarrett's Köln. Recognizable fragments drift into focus, sometimes disappear too quickly, sometimes get stuck and repeat. Vert's Köln also conjures a 21st century vision of mind-space, which makes it good fodder for this Y2K retrospective and an interesting contrast with its muse: the piece is full of floating debris, the partially glimpsed—and a few really important themes Vert won't let go of no matter what. This is why, when the primary theme from Jarrett's composition emerges cleanly at the end of Vert's, free of blips and sonic mirages, I tear up if I'm listening—rather than having one of my ADD moments. Vert plays it on something that sounds like a glockenspiel and the theme—impelled and yearning in the original, though fragile—is tender here, as if it survived the storm by getting smaller, like a Key Deer. It suggests to me that the core humanist ideals of the '70s—and our essential memories—haven't been obliterated by the march of time, they've just changed. Not bad at all.

Eric Burger

Listen: Vert >> "The Köln Konzert: Part Five"

No comments: