The Friday Morning Listen: Keith Jarrett – No End (2013)

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Discovering that Keith Jarrett could play the guitar was a little like finding out that Bob Dylan could speak coherently. Wait, what?

OK, so I’ll be the first to admit that this particular Keith Jarrett album took me completely by surprise. A guitar album? The Keith Jarrett? The guy who put out all of that fantastic trio music? The improvised concerts? The guys who moans atonally while playing? (That really has nothing to do with any of this. It’s just fun to bring up.)

As detailed by my SomethingElse! cohort S. Victor Aaron, No End is something that Jarrett put together in his home studio many years ago. Why is it so surprising? The thought of Jarrett strapping on an electric guitar is just something that never occurred to me. Ever. He played all of the instruments on this including bass, drums, and a bunch of percussion. But for some reason, it was the guitar that came out of left field.

As for the music itself, it’s surprisingly good, the second disc in particular. When the percussion and droning voice is layered in there, the overall effect brings to mind the polyrhythmic stuff Jarrett did in Miles Davis’ electric band, though obviously toned down several orders of magnitude. There are places where Jarrett sets the guitar and bass moving in opposite directions, giving the music a lot more harmonic complexity inside the context of a fairly simple set of instruments. Though he obviously recorded this many years prior, much of the music reminded me of the Diga Rhythm Band and also Mickey Hart’s hypnotic Music To Be Born By.

Oh, the Dylan thing? Despite the incredibly erudite natures of Dylan’s lyrics, I had over the years come to believe that in a face-to-face context, Bob wouldn’t be able to construct a coherent sentence. Maybe it was all of those confrontational media encounters that I’d seen. Or maybe it was that bizarre episode at the Grammys. Maybe this was all sealed by the times that I’d seen him live, when he hardly offered up a nod to the rabid audience. But then I saw the film No Direction Home…and there was the supposed mute one articulating his vision in language that, while not giving up entirely its hold on the opaque reference, managed to blow away the stereotypes that had made a home in my head.

Dylan knew what he was talking about. Keith Jarrett employed instruments other than the piano to make some music. I tell you, it shook up my world a little.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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