Review Summary: Not setting the bar; showing only the sky is the limit.
Keith Jarrett is known as one of the best jazz musicians of all time, and this, the best-selling solo album in jazz history and the best-selling piano album, is the obvious reason why. Recorded at the Köln Opera House in 1975, this 66 minute solo piano concert manages to cover most every aspect of jazz improvisation to perfection.
This is some of the best jazz improvisation you will ever hear. Actually, I think that whether you like this album or not tells whether you like improv jazz or not. Keith Jarrett has skills. I mean, hearing this masterpiece of more than an hour's worth of continuous, lush music, it is hard to believe that every note is spontaneous. Jarrett always seems one step ahead; being able to improvise over a two-chord vamp for 8 minutes while still keeping the listener hooked in emotionally; perfectly balancing focus on rhythmic figures, and meditation (at times, bordering to virtuoso self-oscillation) on droning harmonies and moody grooves.
Jarrett opens the concert by quoting the melody of the signal bell in the Köln Opera, which, very fittingly, is normally used to announce the beginning of a concert to patrons. From here on, he fluently pecks around various advanced harmonies, recalling his efforts from fusion-jazz, before diving into 12 minutes of extensive improvisation over a two-chord vamp. It is very trance-inducing but then again, the music is always moving and evolving; even when the foundation that is the bass seems repetitive, there is constantly little variations, which is truly impressive to witness, and so, even though it may at times seem mad and self-oscillating repetitive, you never doubt Jarrett’s genius nor the fact that you will be able to finally see the big picture of something that is purely spontaneous. I mean, the really impressive thing about The Köln Koncert
is the feeling of an hour-long improvisation as being something meticulously planned because everything fits so perfectly into a whole.
The shear thought of all of this being improvised is impressive enough to leave you breathless, especially because it's not only flawlessly executed; it is also full of personality. This album makes it obvious why Keith Jarrett is not only considered one of the absolute greatest jazz musicians of his own era but as one of jazz music's most outstanding representatives.