My longtime friend and musical colleague, Nathan Mills, sent me the link to this video with a “hmmmmm…..”
And being the devout Keith Jarrett fan that I am, naturally I was extremely upset when I first watched this.
As you can see, the video shows Keith Jarrett lashing out at the audience for using flash photography and video, using some pretty harsh language in the process.
It was extremely upsetting to me because I am watching my most favorite and revered jazz pianist, possibly the most important jazz pianist of the second half of the 20th century, lose his cool and curse at the audience, his fans who have paid some hefty sums of money to see him perform his music.
A part of me is angry with Jarrett for losing his cool, and cursing his fans. Mainly, because I’ve always looked up to him as a highly consummate and disciplined individual. I have most of his CDs and a good number of his DVDs, and aside from his typical quirks (the guttural sounds and jerky movements) I’ve always looked upon his work as pure genius and perfect artistry.
And I still do…
But, knowing that he is quite human, and not the God that I considered him to be, has definitely removed him from that lofty pedestal that I had once put him high upon.
With this video, things are different with how I appreciate Jarrett and his music. Yet at the same time, I still admire him for standing up to those people who do not respect his wishes, for if you’ve been any sort of fan of Jarrett’s, you know that he doesn’t appreciate any flash photography or videotaping at any of his concerts.
When I went to see him perform a solo piano concert in San Francisco, the concert staff specifically warned people about the use of flash photography or videotaping. Still, some idiots out in the audience took flash photos. And Jarrett walked up to the microphone and reprimanded those couple of people who took the photos. And at that particular concert, fortunately, he was pretty polite about it.
But just to speak in Keith Jarrett’s defense, he has long made it clear that he doesn’t want flash photography and videotaping at his concerts. And I guess if you are the artist and that is one request you demand from your audience, then that is the artist’s right and it should be respected, given the level of concentration required to perform an entire evening’s worth of improvised music.
A part of me felt let down because I saw Jarrett lose his temper in front of those people.
Another part of me, however, believes that the artist should stand up for his personal rights as an artist, and stand up for what he believes is a fair exchange between the artist and the audience.
Also, artists are typically very passionate individuals. And there has to be a certain level of passion and emotion in their work. And with Jarrett, his music is a lot of things… especially; revolutionary, defiant, passionate, angry, avante-garde, emotional….
…with that in mind, his expression of anger towards his audience for not meeting him halfway is perfectly understandable then. He is protesting, angry and defiant… it is a revolution against what Jarrett feels is his ideal in regards to the subtle and close relationship between the performer and the audience… between the appreciators of the art and the artist himself.
Sure, he lost his cool, and he ended up using some profanity. In reality, who hasn’t at one time or another. But at the same time, Keith Jarrett is human, is passionate, is emotional, because that’s what his music is all about….
After watching the video, the inspirational bubble definitely had burst, and I now saw Jarrett as a human and not a God of discipline and perfection.
But also, I can understand the ideals he fights for. It might be a losing battle in this digital world where it’s so easy to capture moments and events as they happen. But then again, I can understand his frustration.
And hopefully, this will be the last video I have to see of Jarrett losing his cool. Because, jazz musicians are supposed to look, act, and be cool.
I’m still a fan, nonetheless, because I think his music is THAT important… he has a long history that has been recorded on vinyl and in the digital format. It is music that is pure and uncompromised, and in the years to come will speak for itself, and live beyond the man who had created it.