Keith Jarrett: Mysteries: The Impulse Years, 1975-6

COMPOSERS: Keith Jarrett
LABELS: Impulse!
PERFORMER: Keith Jarrett (p, wood flute, osi drum, ss, perc); Dewey Redman (ts, Chinese musette, perc, maracas); Charlie Haden (b); Paul Motian (d, perc), Guilherme Franco (perc)


The Seventies was a tumultuous decade for Keith Jarrett. His music-making was prodigious in its variety, intensity and sheer adventure and, in addition to all his solo work, he also led two very different ground-breaking quartets – his American group (1971-6) listed above, and his European quartet (1974-9) with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen.

This magnificent four-CD set by his American quartet comes from three studio sessions in December 1975, a high point in the band’s life, and three sessions in October 1976 which were the group’s swan song. The percussionist Guilherme Franco played only in the 1975 sessions, and these produced two brilliantly varied and dynamic albums, Shades and Mysteries, which are included on the first two discs here, but with several alternative takes added in each case.

Jarrett and his group are such consummate improvisers that the alternative takes are different from, but hardly ever inferior to, the master tracks. All of the compositions are by Jarrett, and the fluidity of his writing and playing is a wonder to behold.

On Shades an apparently straightforward, rocky piece such as ‘Southern Smiles’ has slippery, asymmetrical phrases in its theme, while on Mysteries, the master take of ‘Everything That Lives Laments’ goes through a poetic series of colours, textures and rhythms, while ‘Flame’ features Jarrett on wood flute, with tablas, Redman’s musette (a kind of bagpipes) and bass in a dancing, ethnic performance.

In 1976, Jarrett wanted to disband his American quartet and end his relationship with Impulse, and the October sessions were done to fulfil his recording contract. For the first time, he insisted that the other members of the group should contribute some compositions. As a result, Jarrett had only one composition on each of the two albums, Byablue and Bop-Be, which came out of the sessions.


Motian has most of the composing credits on the former album and Redman and Haden share the honours on the latter. But, although the results have considerable charm, it is clear that as Jarrett relaxed his hold on the group, the music lost focus and power. IC