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Review: [untitled]

Author(s): Bill Dobbins


Reviewed work(s):
Keith Jarrett: The Man and His Music by Ian Carr
Source: Notes, Second Series, Vol. 49, No. 1 (Sep., 1992), pp. 141-142
Published by: Music Library Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/897230
Accessed: 18/08/2009 22:11
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Book Reviews
Progressive Rock Explosion in Wisconsin,
1970-Present," by Mark Shurilla, a Wisconsin writer, DJ, musician, and promoter,
is informative but dry. Shurilla uses historical narrative primarily to tie together
lists of names, bands, records, and tours,
and so replicates to a certain extent
Corenthal's jingoistic tone. Only occasionally in this book will the reader find much
substantive analytical engagement with social or cultural history; its strength lies in
the collection of primary materials it makes
available.
The IllustratedHistoryof WisconsinMusic is
a labor of love, idiosyncratic and selfpublished. While professional historians
are likely to find Corenthal unsophisticated
theoretically, his compilation offers, for example, interesting glimpses of musical life
in the American interior during the era of
Tin Pan Alley. But because most of the
written text is taken from local historians
and contemporaneous journalists, the book
emphasizes only those musicians who had
already entered written history during
their own times. Similarly, the focus on
published songs, programs, and recordings
means that oral traditions are but palely
reflected (for which the contributions by
March and Shurilla may have been meant
to compensate). Nevertheless, for all his
boosterism of Wisconsin music's glorious
past and promising future, Corenthal appropriately celebrates a plurality of musical
life that is often missed by scholarly histories. Moreover, he unabashedly acknowledges the roles of various forms of mass
mediation not only in disseminating and
preserving all kinds of music, but in generating musical creation as well.
ROBERTWALSER
DartmouthCollege
Keith Jarrett: The Man and His
Music. By Ian Carr. London: Grafton
Books; North Pomfret, Vt.: Trafalgar
Square [distributor], 1991. [x, 237 p.
ISBN 0-246-13434-8.
$24.95.]
Keith Jarrett is possibly one of the most
uniquely gifted of all living Western musicians. His musical projects have included
participation as leader or sideman in numerous small acoustic jazz groups, solo piano concerts ranging from completely im-

141
provised music to masterpieces of the
European classical repertory, appearances
as soloist with major symphony orchestras
in concertos by such composers as Bela
Bart6k, Samuel Barber, and Lou Harrison,
recordings on the harpsichord of works by
Bach and Handel, totally improvised recordings on soprano saxophone, pipe organ, and clavichord, and an unprecedented
collection of home studio improvisations on
various flutes and percussion instruments.
The last of these performing media, sometimes accompanied with voice, amount to
an intensely personal meditation and a
powerful glimpse into the true meaning of
"world music." What sets him apart from
his many imitators is his incredible depth
and range of expression in all of these musical contexts. Even when historical stylistic
origins or influences are obvious, it is just
as obvious that he has made every sound
his own.
In Keith Jarrett: The Man and His Music,
Ian Carr provides a wealth of information
and insight into Jarrett's personal history
and musical development. Jarrett's remarkable oneness with the piano is the result of
both a prodigious talent and an involvement with the instrument that began in
infancy. Carr has collected and organized
much information about Jarrett's early
years, from his first piano lessons to his first
encounters with jazz. Although his serious
exploration of jazz began at about the age
of fifteen, Jarrett's early facility at the
piano-from the age of two-enabled him
to express this newly acquired musical vocabulary in an unusually personal manner.
His musical calling, however, always
seemed to encompass more than just the
piano. The recording Spirits, in which he
recorded himself improvising in his home
studio on a variety of simple folk instruments, clarified for the first time just how
far beyond the piano his musical vision was
reaching. The manifestation of the music
in Spirits helped him to realize that much
of the work in his totally improvised solo
concerts during the previous twelve years
was actually a frustrated attempt at finding
music in the piano which could not really
be made with a piano. This realization
helped to give a greater freedom to his
later solo piano improvisations, since the
energies that had long searched for an appropriate medium had finally found their

142
expressive release. This is just one of the
many meaningful connections between Jarrett's diverse musical activities that Carr's
attentive research brings to light.
In ever different ways, Carr returns time
and again to two central features of Jarrett's identity: the striving for total integrity
in his life and his work, and an honest
respect for both the greatness and mystery
of "the music," regardless of the idiom
through which it is expressed. Jarrett is one
of the few important musical figures to
emerge during the 1960s whose music
achieved worldwide influence without the
slightest artistic compromise. Totally dedicated to the value of music as a creative,
expressive activity rather than as a commercial product to be consumed, Jarrett
has imbued his entire output with a common integrity that can be found in only a
handful of twentieth-century musicians
(Bela Bart6k and Duke Ellington come
most immediately to mind). Carr's attention to organization helps to make it clear
that the seemingly disparate musical worlds
that Jarrett successively inhabits have been
regularly revisited and explored at ever
deeper and more spiritually revealing levels. In relation to classical music this has
gradually narrowed the circle of his musical
associates, since the general absence of real
connections between classical music itself
and the everyday lives of those who play
and listen to it became a source of both
surprise and dissolutionment. While some
have accused Jarrett of excessive personal
eccentricity and aloofness for his insistence
on maintaining the highest standards regarding both the integrity of the musicians
and the quality of the physical and environmental conditions (instrument, hall,
etc.), it should be clear to anyone who reads
Carr's book that the reason behind such
demands is always Jarrett's concern for the
music, and the creation of optimum conditions for people to be able to receive it.
As if in confirmation of this respect for
the music's integrity, Jarrett has never been
influenced by fads. In fact, the relative lack
of references throughout the book to developments in either mass commercial music or jazz throughout the 1970s and '80s
testifies to the negligible degree of influence they have had on any of his work.
Jarrett has been influenced only by music
that has affected him personally, whatever

NOTES, September

1992

the idiom. Carr makes it unmistakably clear


that, to Jarrett, it is of primary importance
that one be sincere with oneself about such
matters. After all, how many artists in any
medium could or would say that their most
important work is "staying conscious."
The fact that so much of Jarrett's work
is still of vital interest to so many people,
while most of the trendy fusion, new age
music, and warmed over hard bop has been
so quickly forgotten, speaks for itself. Jarrett has recorded voluminously (over 100
albums), but it is hard to think of a contemporary artist whose work is more worth
documenting. Every stage of Jarrett's career and every band that he has led or
played with are discussed with intelligence
and care in this concise and readable biography. Jarrett's own participation in the
book was essential, especially since elsewhere his own words have so often been
directly misquoted or grossly misinterpreted. The complete discography is a
must not only for fans, but for anyone interested in exploring particular facets of
Jarrett's musical output more fully.
Ian Carr has already written what, I believe, is the most lucid and thoughtful biography of Miles Davis (New York: Morrow, 1982). Keith Jarrett: The Man and His
Music should prove to be just as valuable
to readers at all levels of musical experience: it is most highly recommended.
BILL DOBBINS
Eastman School of Music
Chicago Soul. By Robert Pruter. (Music in American Life.) Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991. [xx, 408 p.
ISBN 0-252-01676-9.
$39.95.]
In the context of black popular or traditional music of the United States, one
does not normally associate Chicago with
soul music, since that city's musical reputation is based more on the urban blues
style that developed after World War II
with the migration of Mississippi Delta musicians to the northern states. Robert
Pruter, the rhythm-and-blues editor for
Goldmine(a magazine for record collectors
published in Wisconsin), sets out to challenge this reputation by documenting the
story of "soul entertainers who lived,
worked, and recorded in Chicago and put