For me, Jarrett hit his zenith with the first track of the Koln concert. I bought this disk decades ago, and it's been in heavy rotation ever since. Mostly always the first track, mostly always the last six or seven minutes when in a rush, there's a brilliance to this track I haven't encountered on any of his other disks (not to say there's not some great other performances). The build up of the piece, the recall of the themes, the wonderful air in his improvisation makes this a must-have piece, not just of jazz, but of all music. This shows Jarrett's tremendous talent in ways that always amaze people when I play the track.
What lets this CD down is the recording, which, quite frankly, is poor. I remember reading an interview about the making of this disk and the problems with the piano, the mics, the recording process. It was substandard, according to the recording and mastering engineers, but what made them release the disk was the music. I can only wonder what this would sound like on a great piano with state-of-the-art recording techniques.
In the end it doesn't matter: this disk is wonderful for the music alone. Despite the piano sound and the oversaturation, ECM did the best they could, and Jarrett was never better. A must have, as I said, for all music fans. Simply wonderful stuff.
on April 29, 2004
I have kept from writing about the Koln concert for such a long time, but I feel I must... Now that I read all the reviews.
Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert captures your soul and never lets go. I have went on and listened to all of Jarrett's albums. All the solo performances. All the solo albums. La Scala is perfect. Probably the best solo concert, in terms of musicality, soul and beauty. Paris is an overall genius, lyrical, touching, aching. So are Vienna, Concerts and the clavichord session, Book of Ways, which is a must-have, although it is not for everybody.
Whisper Not CD1 is friendly jazz. CD2 is hardcore jazz. Judge it as you might. The Melody At Night With You is pure Keith Jarrett.
But Koln... It is above all that. While all those other works are standing tall, rising high, crawling, digging deep... They are all grounded somwhere. Classically, jazz-oriented, blues, even pure piano soloing... You can DEFINE them.
The Koln Concert just floats. It belongs nowhere. It is in a world of its own. No one, including Jarrett, has ever, and will ever make another composition like this one. It belongs to no category. It obeys no rules. It does something to you that only Toccata and Fugue in D Minor comes close to doing to you. It does that from the very first note. It lasts long after the CD ends.
People wrote, I have listened to it well over a hundred times. Me too. Well over a thousand. Hundreds of times to Jarrett's other albums, too. Keith Jarrett hates this album because he knows he will never repeat such a divine composition. Notice something interesting - Koln is not played even in Jarrett's style.
Koln was a concert played by a force larger than Jarrett. It was a composition playing itself through Jarrett. A gift from God, whether you believe in God or not. Laugh as you may, this album does something to you no other album does. It grabs your soul and never lets you go. You are a different person once you've heard Koln.
on February 10, 2014
I recently played Keith Jarretts' "Works" from ECM Records; a disc I purchased some 20 years ago and played only a handful of times since. I purchased Pat Metheny's "Works" at the same time and that record has been a favourite since as I am more of a guitar fan. "Works" was a series of albums released by ECM that are not a greatest hits album from each artist represented but more of an introduction to their music.
After all these years I was quite moved by Jarrett's playing and began to seek out more, wondering why I hadn't fallen in love with the album from the first listen. Obviously our tastes change (improve/mature?) as we age.
I discovered the "Koln Concert" on-line and after listening to the first track purchased a used vinyl copy as I felt this was more likely music I would sit and really listen to rather than buy on CD and have available for my car, ipod, etc.
I really don't understand why anyone would ever sell their copy unless it was to purchase the 180 gram edition to be released next month or if they were for some reason switching entirely digital but I am thankful nonetheless. Go ahead and find the first track on-line, sit down somewhere quiet for half an hour and really listen. That anyone can improvise such a moving piece of music of such length and beauty utterly amazes me. I dare say you too will buy a copy, whether it's vinyl, CD or download.
I expect I will eventually buy the 180 gram vinyl edition as well, reserving it for serious listening and my current copy for background/dinner music. I may have to buy a CD as well so I can add this beautiful music to my ipod in high quality AIFF format and thereby enjoy it while travelling, etc. This album is simply that good.
on October 11, 2002
This live Keith Jarrett recording is pure joy...plain and simple. I have owned it for over 15 years and upon returning to it again and again, it is as fresh and as exuberant as the first time I ever heard it. Jarrett is absolutely electric on this live recording and a master of spontaneous musicianship.
The first movement of Kohn especially is compelling, optimistic and unapologetically melodic. Sometimes when I finish hearing the first movement for the first time in months, I immediately want to back up to the last five minutes of the piece and literally listen to these final thrilling moments over and over again.
It is difficult for me to choose between this most popular Jarrett recording his live concert from Bregenz, Austria in 1981...but after hearing that first movement of Kohn again today, I might have to cast my vote for "The Kohn Concert" yet again. Listen...please...you will be amazed!
on May 5, 2004
This is the first Keith Jarrett album I've heard. I am aware that Jarrett himself said: "I think of that album as being full of really rich ideas but describing not as much of the process as I'm interested in describing...very much less describing the process than the other live solo recordings."
Contrasting Koln to his other concerts (I own also Vienna, Paris, Bremen/Lausanne, Tokyo '84, Dark Intervals), I'm not sure what he means.
For one thing its the most "straightforward" sounding one, I suppose, which explains its accessibility and popularity.
But does that matter? How does that make it less good than the others?
Personally I think the Koln concert contains some of Jarrett's most hauntingly gorgeous moments. Part IIB has an almost minimalist (although much more interesting) passage which erupts into a very Romantic piano like passage. This is the most touching and deeply moving piano solo I have yet heard.
Whether or not Jarrett wants to get all intellectual on us and imply that its easily accessible to the public is immaterial as far as I'm concerned.
This is gorgeous music and you had better buy it.
on July 22, 2003
This is an absolutely wonderful record. I have probably listened to it several hundred times. It is hard to believe that Jarrett improvised all of it.
This music exists somewhere in the space between jazz and classical. People who don't know so much about classical music would probably identify it as piano music by some Romantic composer. The biggest "jazz" feature about it is that it is all improvised by Jarrett.
I don't think this 1975 recording has dated at all. (OK, there is some tape hiss on it.)
If you don't have any Keith Jarrett records, this is the one you should start with (it's the one I started with).
on October 4, 2000
Koeln Concert is amazing. The music, as you know, is Keith Jarrett ad lib at his absolute best. The sound is so soulful, rhythmic and beautiful. It's evel amusing at times for his timely wailing that somehow got recorded. If you've ever seen Jarrett in concert, then you know these wails are so much a characteristic of his passion for his art. Alhtough these takes are not "jazz" as one might be used to hearing from Jarrett, that is they are not in the spirit of Bye Bye Blackbird or Deerhead Inn, they could be classified as a sort of Jazz-Classical. And finally, though Paris Concert is really neat, it is not astoundingly amazing like these pieces.
on January 26, 2002
Keith Jarrett is the most techically brilliant jazz pianist since Bud Powell. He brings his knowledge of the blues, bebop, barouqe, classical,gospel, and everything else to the table when ever he does a solo concert. To hear his true brilliance you need to hear his amazing standard trio stuff("whisper not"/"inside out")with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, his classical stuff(Shostakovich)his awesome stuff with Miles("Live-Evil")his european quartet("My Song"/"Nude Ants") AND his solo piano albums. If you ask Keith to name in his opinion his best albums he will name 50 before he mentions "Koln." Why? Because a fact that has been proven by some of the reviewers on this site. I'm talking about the reviewers who say "i love to make love to this one," or "me and my boyfriend used to listen to this all night." Those are the ones that don't understand the music, they just like "the pretty notes he plays every once in a while." They don't understand how impossible it is to improvise like Keith,they just like "the melody of part 2:c." I respect that they like listening to it(that is the reason to have music-to LISTEN to it)but these are the ones that George Winston and other "new age noodlers"(as one of the GOOD good reviews said)were meant for. This album is the beast that created such evil musicians of the new age era. Why? Again becuase George Winston realized "if I play pretty melodies like Keith, soccer moms will love me and make me rich!"People have to understand first and foremost Keith Jarrett is a JAZZ musician. He's "paid his dues" with Charles Lloyd, Art Blakey, and of course Miles Davis. Keith brought a Miles stlye lyricism to the piano at a time when it was unheard of for a jazz pianist not to be playing a fender rhodes distorted to 11. Anyways, Koln is an amazing record. "Part 1" is maybe the most brilliant movement on the album. It goes from a quiet, Bill Evans, to a funky Horace Silver to a Dissonant Bartok, to a strange little interlude on the upper register of the piano, to a anthemic climax with a perfect ending. "Part 2 A" lets Keith groove on his gospel and bop lines over a funky beat before immediatley changing into a quiet, beautiful modal piece. "Part 2 B" is the most complex and challenging part of the album, and "Part 2 C" is an encore solo on a piece Keith wrote in the late 60's called "Memories of Tomorrow." All in all-"KOLN" is amazing, but Keith has better solo records, such as "Facing You" and "Solo Concerts-Bremen/Lausanne."
on November 27, 2001
There is a lot of "finding God" and using this as background for night time pursuits, so the first thing I would say is that I have never listened to this album this way. I stumbled on the cassette tape the year it came out, not knowing either the artist or frankly even the genre of music, curious only by the title of "concert."
Well,it's a tremendous concert, and fully in keeping with the classical evocations of that term. Basically, in the first 27 minute piece, Jarrett plays a couple of motifs of several notes each and then elaborates on them in a model fully in keeping with the classical tradition, both in terms of composers who specialize in such germ-theme development (Strauss, Sibelius), using scales and repetition through keys for connective tissue (Debussy, Tchaikovsky), or simply through the pure art of improvisation (Beethoven,in his dozens of variations, which are basically writings down of his own improvs). Having said that, there are two things truly striking about this first piece: first, the progression from vague Debussy like scales to a Beethoven-#9 I/Bach"Chaconne" type climax is utterly astounding, and second, that the entire affair was improvised and yet Jarrett managed to build it all into something that made sense, including cross references to the earlier melodic material. I mean: you expect this kind of stuff in the classics, because composers plan it out this way. You do NOT expect someone to just make this stuff up as they go along, unless they are Beethoven, Mozart, or -- Keith Jarrett.
Describing the music in classical terms doesn't mean that the music has a "classic" flavor, on the contrary, Jarrett frequently slips into gospel/jazz harmonies and rhythms, so there's no mistaking the source in American jazz. On the other hand, the pieces are more subdued in the ruminative classical tradition (except for the second of the four); the other three all start slow and build into something truly artistic.
This is really great solo piano playing, period. Ragging about New Age is irrelevant. These are long, serious, COMPOSITIONS -- even if improvised -- and they rank right up there with some of the best ever.
on July 2, 2001
For some reason, there seems to be an idea among many fans that the Koln concert is to Keith Jarrett as the Prelude in C sharp minor is to Rachmaninov - popular beyond all measure of its merits, eclipsing more worthy achievements. No, there's a reason why The Koln is the most popular of Keith Jarrett's live, improved solo concerts - it's the best. I've heard the Sun Bear concerts, Paris, Vienna, La Scala, and Bremen-Lausanne, and I love them all in their own unique way, but none of them touches the Koln concert in greatness. Koln may be the most famous, promoted and oft-cited, but it also happens to be at the top of the heap in Jarrett's prolific recording legacy. The spontaneous genius exhibited here has never been equaled on record, not by Keith Jarrett himself nor anyone else I've heard. Pay close attention and you'll discover many of the themes and motifs heard during this epic improv are based on the first six notes that he plays. It's nothing short of a miracle that such deep, rich, involved music could have been thought up on the fly.