Keith Jarrett, one of the most creative and influential pianists of the last fifty years, whose music is still popular and loved all over the world today, has had two strokes that have partially paralyzed the left half of his body, and for this he cannot play and it will probably never do that again, at least at high levels. He said this in an interview issued to New York Times, clarifying for the first time the reasons why he suddenly withdrew from the concert activity last year, without explanation.
What may have been the last of his legendary concerts, which he held improvising alone on the piano for an entire evening, was held in 2017 at Carnegie Hall in New York: it had been particularly emotional, and in the end – he who is a notoriously short-tempered and impatient guy – he had told the audience “you are the first to make me cry”.
Jarrett is 75 years old and was one of the most important jazz pianists of the second half of the last century, from his beginnings in the fusion with the band of Miles Davis to records with his band in the seventies and with the trio formed with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock. But much of Jarrett’s fame is due to his concerts alone, the most famous of which is the Cologne Concert from 1975, still today one of the best-selling records in the history of jazz.
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“I was paralyzed. My left side is still partially paralyzed. I can try walking with a cane, but it took a long time, a year or more. And mostly I don’t move around the house, “he said over the phone New York Times. Jarret had a first stroke in February 2018, and then another the following May. At first he did not realize the severity of the problem, but after several symptoms appeared he was hospitalized. After being discharged following the first episode, he had his second stroke: he was hospitalized in a nursing home where he stayed from July 2018 to last May, so for almost two years.
During his hospitalization he sporadically used a piano he had at his disposal, playing with only his right hand: “I tried to pretend to be Bach with one hand, but in reality it was just a pastime,” said Jarrett, who in his career has recorded on several discs his interpretations of the compositions of the great eighteenth-century composer. Back home, he tried to play some jazz classics, but found he had forgotten them.
Nate Chinen, the music critic who interviewed him, said he has a weak voice but was mostly lucid in the two hours of conversation, barring a few lapses of memory. “He often underlined an important or strange phrase with a laugh that sounded like some kind of indistinct rhythmic exhalation: Ah-ha-ha-ha. “
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Recently, Jarrett has been a bit surrounded by grief: last month era morto Peacock, a few months earlier Jon Christensen, drummer of his so-called “European quartet” of the seventies (including saxophonist Jan Garbarek and bassist Palle Danielson). All the other members of his “American quartet” – saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian – are long dead. A Chinen Jarrett said he feels like the John Coltrane of the pianists, in the sense that “all those who played the sax after him showed how much they owed him: but it wasn’t their music, it was just a question of imitation”.
“I don’t know what my future should be like. I don’t feel like a pianist right now. That’s all I can say, ”Jarrett explained. “But when I hear piano music played with two hands, it is very frustrating, in a physical sense. If I hear just Schubert, or something softly played, that’s too much. Because I know I won’t be able to do it anymore. I am not expected to return to that point. The best I think I can recover from my left hand is maybe holding a cup. “
«I can only play with my right hand, and that’s not enough for me. I’ve also had dreams where I’m as shabby as in reality, so I found myself playing in my dreams, but it’s exactly like in real life, “he told Chinen.