ECM celebrates the occasion of pianist Keith Jarrett's 70th birthday with two simultaneous releases. One is a classical date for its New Series on which he performs piano concertos by B‚la Bart¢k and Samuel Barber with two different orchestras. The other is Creation, a solo piano offering. While Jarrett has made dozens of solo records, this is unlike any in his catalog. Rather than document the unfolding of his in-the-moment ideas through a single performance, this set features nine sections compiled from half-a-dozen performances in four cities and five venues (all notated in the sleeve) during 2014. They have been sequenced and produced by Jarrett as a new, episodic, single work. The brief silences between the sections don't mar the flow; instead, they reveal, time and again, a vast dynamic range, where the moment of inspiration meets the precise moment of articulation in improvisation. The opening section is offered with a nearly formal modern classical schema. It is alternately brooding, impressionistic, and processional, and expression evolves chord to chord with very little solo coloration from the right hand. "Part II" begins as an extension (almost), commencing along classical lines, but its texture is lighter, almost a reverie, as Jarrett explores the instrument's middle and upper registers in two-handed interplay. This eventually gives way nearly eight minutes later to a balladic, jazz-like exposition in "Part III." Even though these pieces all stand memorably on their own, they serve as a collective introduction to the rest of the recording. From "Part IV" through "Part VI," Jarrett travels through songlike figures that embrace early Americana themes, rural gospel and folk forms, and impressionistic classical frames, each one evolving so naturally from its predecessors that his flood of ideas -- even within pieces -- becomes a holistic, inherent expression of the heart of lyricism itself. "Part VIII" contains more elliptical exposition as its initial tonalities inform and instruct as points of entry to a more veiled inquiry. The concluding "Part IX" commences almost as a lullaby before building to a lushly constructed harmonic apex and crescendo. Suddenly, and seemingly magically, it unmakes itself to dissolve into silence with a hushed single note. Creation represents a new type of solo recording for Jarrett. It is a crystalline distillation of his musical essences brought to fruition segment by segment, each brimming with his requisite elegance and taste. Creation is not only notable for its beauty, but for its vulnerability. It is one of the most revealing volumes in his catalog. ~ Thom Jurek
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