KEITH JARRETT — Arbour Zena (review)

KEITH JARRETT — Arbour Zena album cover Album · 1976 · Third Stream Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Amilisom
I came to listen to this album as a result of many sources regarding it as being Keith Jarrett's best. What I expected to hear at the time was Keith Jarrett playing a form of bop with a trio or quartet of some kind, which is generally what you find if you search for Keith Jarrett on Youtube.

Instead, as I began the 15-min first track "Runes" I discovered that this entirely wasn't the case at all. This album doesn't even have a drummer, but instead has a string orchestra accompanying Jarrett on piano, Haden on bass, and Jan Garbarek on saxophone. The three rarely ever play at the same time. Instead, there will be stretches of time where Charlie Haden will begin soloing with the string orchestra with Jarrett either playing very sparse or not at all. This changes with the second half of "Solara March", when the three members start a groove and improvise over it with the string orchestra still giving backgrounds. "Mirrors" is similar to "Runes" but with a more complex string arrangement at times.

As a result, most of the music in this album is very free, spacious, and beautiful. Although it may draw influences from pop piano music, the spirit of improvisation is still very much existent here.
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