Album Review

​Keith Jarrett - Creation

Released May 8, 2015
Dylan Sonderman
​I was introduced to the music of jazz/classical pianist Keith Jarrett by a young poet named Christian O’Keeffe. The moving and evocative poetry the now-deceased O’Keeffe produced during his short lifetime contained brilliant echoes of the improvisational spirit and the joy of discovering one’s own ability to create. It is mere speculation whether or not these aspects in his creative writing resulted from Jarrett’s inspiration, but the elements are clearly present in Jarrett’s music, all the same. As is brilliance.
The aptly titled 2015 album Creation collects nine improvisational suites from six different live performances in 2014. I personally love this approach in arranging and developing an album. By blending the raw, off-the-cuff essence of improv with the meticulous selection process taking place in the studio, Jarrett put together a record that feels both refined and fresh. But perhaps “raw” gives the wrong impression; I meant it in terms of vulnerable and simple, not that the compositions are in any way abrasive. Quite the opposite, in fact.
At 70-years old, the guy definitely possesses a wealth of experience. And these songs, ideas, suites-whatever you want to call them-display an absolutely masterful sense of dynamics, mood, harmony, and atmosphere. Most of the pieces are far less technically complex than some of the virtuosic work Jarrett has received acclaim for throughout his 50-plus year career (which included stints with Art Blakey and Miles Davis). But, that hardly makes the playing any less sophisticated. Every note fills its function. Stylistically, Creation probably sits somewhere between classical and jazz, with a dark and ominous tint reminiscent of film score music. The songs veer from uplifting to brooding to mysterious to melancholy, sometimes throughout a single piece, without losing coherence.
In fact, the album is so coherent, it’s difficult to differentiate between the songs on the first few listens. And it doesn’t help that none of the tracks have names. The titles are merely “Part I”, “Part II”, you get the idea. But I don’t think the listener necessarily benefits from that kind of scrutiny; to me, Creation is a “mood” record, and is best experienced in one long sitting.
Overall, I enjoyed the album and I think it is a nice accomplishment in the career of a veteran musician. Having said that, the songs often feel meandering and sparse to a fault. All of the tracks are solo piano with no accompaniment, save for the occasional muffled vocals Jarrett is known for mumbling along with his music. This idiosyncrasy isn’t all that prominent, but does drag the album down a bit for me. Lifelong Jarrett devotees will probably love Creation. Some breeds of classical music aficionados may fancy it as well. For me, the moods are interesting, for sure. I think the album would be great background music while reading a horror novel on a rainy day, or a soundtrack for a depressing black-and-white indie film. It does make a statement, I just have no idea what the hell it’s saying. And unlike with abstract poetry, I’m not quite sure how to take meaning away from the music.