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Born: May 8, 1945
Biography (via AllMusic): Pianist, composer, and bandleader Keith Jarrett is one of the most prolific, innovative, and iconoclastic musicians to emerge from the late 20th century. As a pianist (though that is by no means the only instrument he plays), he literally changed the conversation in jazz by introducing an entirely new aesthetic regarding solo improvisation in concert. Though capable of playing in a wide variety of styles, Jarrett is deeply grounded in the jazz tradition. He has recorded over 80 albums as a leader in jazz and classical music. And he has won the Down Beat Critics Poll as a pianist numerous times, including consecutively between 2001 and 2008.
Jarrett was born May 8, 1945 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. At the age of three he began playing piano. He undertook the study of classical music at age eight, and at 15 he studied formal composition before moving to Boston to study briefly at the Berklee College of Music. Still in his teens, Jarrett intended to further his academic work in Paris before deciding to move to New York in 1964 and become a jazz musician.
He entered the city's vibrant scene by sitting in with veteran and aspiring players at clubs, including the Village Vanguard. His first touring gig was with Art Blakey's New Jazz Messengers, where he remained until 1966. The lone recording with that band -- which also featured trumpeter Chuck Mangione -- was Buttercorn Lady, recorded live at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. Jarrett joined Charles Lloyd's famed quartet in 1966. That band, which reflected the variety of changes taking place in jazz and popular music in general, achieved global success as both a recording and touring entity.
He left the group in 1968 and issued his first solo recording, Restoration Ruin, on the Vortex label. He played everything on the album including soprano saxophone, harmonica, drums, and guitar in addition to piano; he even sang. The album is mainly considered a curiosity in his catalog because it wasn't a jazz album, but a folk-rock recording. Regardless of how Jarrett regards it today, it stands as a brave undertaking from a young musician and paints an interesting view of his early thoughts in lieu of what he would accomplish later. Appearing the same year, he recorded Life Between the Exit Signs for Atlantic, where he led a trio whose rhythm section consisted of bassist Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. This group -- later a quartet with the addition of saxophonist Dewey Redman -- would record together for 11 years and attain the status of jazz legend for their dynamic, groundbreaking interplay and improvisation.
Jarrett played organ and electric piano with Miles Davis between 1970 and 1971, which resulted in Live at the Fillmore and Live/Evil. His work with Davis would also surface on the trumpeter's 1974 album, Get Up with It, and was beautifully documented on the box set Miles Davis: The Cellar Door Session 1970, which was issued in 2005. Jarrett also appeared on other artists' albums during this period, including Airto's Free, psychedelic pop duo Barbara & Ernie's Prelude To..., and soul singer Donal Leace's self-titled offering from 1972. Jarrett and Gary Burton issued their self-titled recording on Atlantic in 1971, the same year his trio released The Mourning of a Star.
The pianist briefly signed to Columbia, releasing one enduring album for the label, Expectations, in 1972 -- an album that featured his trio with guitarist Sam Brown and Airto. The year also proved fruitful for two other reasons. The first was Facing You, Jarrett's first solo piano recording for Manfred Eicher's young ECM label, an association that would become symbiotic by the end of the decade. As previously mentioned, Redman joined Jarrett's group in late 1971, and the first offering by the larger band was Birth, issued by Atlantic in 1972. The band also recorded for Impulse! during this time, issuing the highly regarded Fort Yawuh (1973), Treasure Island (1974), Death and the Flower and Backhand (1975), Mysteries (1976), ByaBlue (1977), and Bop-Be (1978). El Juicio (The Judgement) also appeared on Atlantic in 1975.
Jarrett's horizons were broadening considerably in the early '70s, and his association with ECM was deepening. While 1972 saw the release of Ruta and Daitya, a duet album with Jack DeJohnette, 1973 offered evidence of what would become iconic in the decades to come: the improvised Solo Concerts: Bremen & Lausanne. In 1975, Jarrett's double-live solo piano album The Köln Concert was released; its warmth, accessibility, and immense and enduring popularity have made it the best-selling solo piano recording in jazz history. His other solo piano works for ECM include Staircase, the ten-album Sun Bear Concerts, Moth and the Flame, Concerts, Paris Concert, Dark Intervals, Vienna Concert, La Scala, Carnegie Hall Concert, and Rio. [Read more via AllMusic here.]