WORKS: Bridge of Light; Elegy for violin & strings; Adagio for oboe & strings; Violin Sonata
PERFORMER: Marcia Butler (oboe), Keith Jarrett (piano), Patricia McCarty (viola), Michelle Makarski (violin)Fairfield Orchestra/Thomas Crawford
CATALOGUE NO: 445 350-2 DDD
ECM has built a distinctive reputation on its parallel support for jazz and new music, and Keith Jarrett has long been established as one of its favourite sons. Jarrett’s solo piano The Köln Concert remains the label’s best-selling disc, and alongside his jazz discs Jarrett has also recorded Bach, including the Goldberg Variations and French Suites.
This time, though, it is his own compositions that appear in ECM’s New Series, and most depressing they are. Had Jarrett not been who he is, and ECM not so deeply indebted to his faithfulness, it’s hard to believe that any of these pieces would ever have appeared on disc.
Even in a musical world that spends more time looking backwards rather than forwards Jarrett’s warmed-over academicism seems pale and irrelevant. It is all well enough crafted, and the melodic invention is pleasing enough, but the music inhabits a world (in the Elegy for violin and orchestra and the Adagio for oboe and strings) that would have seemed too familiar to Elgar and Vaughan Williams; in the over-long Violin Sonata there is just a touch of Stravinskian neo-classicism, but most of the time the music wanders along its predictable and safe course with nothing but good manners to justify its existence. That all the performances seem utterly committed and convincing only adds to the accumulated disappointment. Andrew Clements