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Keith Jarrett

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BEST HISTORICAL RESEARCH IN RECORDED JAZZ Certificate of Merit 2021, Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research

Keith Jarrett is one of the great pianists of our times. Before achieving worldwide fame for his solo improvisations, he had already collaborated with Art Blakey, Charles Lloyd and Miles Davis. His 'Köln Concert' album (1975) has now sold around four million copies and become the most successful solo recording in jazz history. His interpretations of the music of Bach, Händel, Bartók or Shostakovich, have also received much attention in later years. Jarrett is considered difficult and inaccessible, and has often abandoned the stage during his concerts due to restless audiences or disturbing photographers.

Few writers have come as close to Keith Jarrett as Wolfgang Sandner, who has not only closely followed Jarrett’s remarkable career from the 1960s, but has also had the opportunity to visit him in his home in the United States. For this biography, which is full of detailed musical analysis and cross-references to other artistic genres, Sandner has collected new information about Jarrett’s family background, much of which is thanks to the translator, Keith Jarrett’s youngest brother Chris. The book explores Jarrett’s work with other musicians, in particular the members of his American and European Quartets and his Standards Trio, it charts the development of his solo concerts, and it also investigates his work in the classical sphere, as well as the highly original music he has created in his own home studio. It also covers his associations with his various record labels and producers, notably his unparalleled relationship with ECM and its founder Manfred Eicher. This English edition is a significantly extended and updated version of the German original.

Published: Nov 2, 2020


Section Chapter Authors
Preface to the English Edition Wolfgang Sandner
Foreword Wolfgang Sandner
Acknowledgements Wolfgang Sandner
Overture Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 1
Growing up in Allentown Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 2
Three Steps to Jazz: Art - Charles - Miles Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 3
Ideal Partnership Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 4
The Formative Years Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 5
Winding Paths to Musical Mastership Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 6
Limitless Soloist Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 7
Grandeur and Crisis Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 8
The History of a Cult Recording Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 9
America's Songbook Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 10
The Jazz Man as Classical Musician Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 11
The Complete Artist Wolfgang Sandner
Chapter 12
Objection Wolfgang Sandner
Epilogue Wolfgang Sandner
Discography Wolfgang Sandner
End Matter
Bibliography Wolfgang Sandner
Index Wolfgang Sandner


BBC Music Magazine, Best Books about Jazz, 25 October 2022

This new biography of one of the world’s great musicians turns out to be sadly timely. Jarrett announced in October that damage from two strokes has almost certainly ended his performing career. Ian Carr’s Keith Jarrett: The Man and His Music came out as long ago as 1992. Wolfgang Sandner came to know Jarrett through Manfred Eicher, the founder of ECM, and has visited Jarrett’s home in New Jersey.
Sandner is an erudite music critic and a long-time fan of a musician who, for all his talent, divides opinion. The enforced distance from his subject has probably made this a better book (Carr slipped into special pleading). A good deal of family information is supplied by the pianist’s youngest brother, Chris Jarrett, who also translated it from the original German (Rowohlt, 2015).
Sandner is a trustworthy guide who takes the story right up to this year’s belated release of The Budapest Concert from 2016 and the rumours of ill health. He is in no doubt that Jarrett is a genius – and even if you think ECM has released too many albums and detect bouts of hubris and note-spinning – he makes a strong case. 
London Jazz News

Given his impact on jazz and solo improvisation this past half century, relatively few are the books on Keith Jarrett. This is surprising, considering all the critical acclaim, the phenomenal influence he has had on countless musicians, his colossal commercial success and the headline-grabbing outbursts. Perhaps so few biographers have attempted to tackle Jarrett out of fear of failure to do his artistry justice. Wolfgang Sandner, whose Jarrett biography was first published in German in 2015, shows no such timidity in grappling with the complex musical and personal traits that have made Jarrett, the musician, surprisingly difficult to pigeonhole, and Jarrett, the person, difficult to fathom. By curious happenstance, this updated English language version was translated by Chris Jarrett, the youngest of Keith Jarrett's four brothers, who has long resided in Germany. Translation is something of an art in itself, and Chris Jarrett's precision and deft feel for phraseology bear the hallmarks of one successful in his own right as a pianist and composer. His fine translation contributes hugely to the flow and lyricism in Sandner's pen.
All About Jazz

This is a musical biography to enjoy and think about, to read and then be returned to the records informed with new insight. As befits its reticent subject, it is not a personal biography of the pianist, although the necessary details are here, but what it does so well is to explain why Keith Jarrett is so important, and why his two strokes – the news of which came just after this book went to the press, although the post-2018 silence is noted with concern – have probably ended the career of a musical genius. If that proves to be the case, this is the biography that will help us make sense of his remarkable legacy.
Jazz Journal

Sandner's book is a very thoughtful piece of work, a very valuable successor to Ian Carr's biography -- perhaps more philosophical, and also less of a hagiography
The Wire

A sadly timely biography of the great jazz pianist. Wolfgang Sandner is an incisive, knowledgeable writer who is in no doubt of Jarrett's genius.

I have to say I very much like Sandner’s writing style. As a biographer it’s refreshing that he doesn’t pull any punches, being unafraid to tell it like it is. As a result, this biography benefits from his objectivity. ... It’s not necessarily the obvious facts that make a great biography, it’s the little surprises, the anecdotes, the meat on the bone that adds to the storytelling. Sandner is especially adept at this, although it’s impossible to know just how much of the detail is from the pen of the author, and how much from the input of Jarrett’s younger brother Chris. Either way, it’s a good combination that actually makes this book a bit of a page-turner, unusual in itself for a biography.
For Jarrett fans, Sandner’s book is essential reading. It adds a different perspective and offers valuable insights in a thoughtful, often illuminating way.
UK Vibe

In this major biography of pianist Keith Jarrett, Wolfgang Sandner not only classifies Jarrett's recordings within the history of jazz, music and culture, but he tempts us to listen in a new and deeper way, and he enables us to understand the music beyond the boundaries of emotional listening.
Wolfram Knauer, Director, Jazz Institute, Darmstadt

Superbly rendered, expanded and updated translation... retreads some of the pianist's formative milestones while stringing through them artful observations, interpretations and connections.
New York City Jazz Record