Today is Keith Jarrett’s birthday, but he’s the one bearing a gift.
Seasoned Jarrett fans will recognize it as a classic solo encore, softly radiant and emotionally absorbing. In fact, the song — a standard originally titled “Mütterlein,” and most famously recorded with its English lyrics by Nat King Cole — has been a staple of his repertoire for the last decade or so. In 2010 I reviewed a trio concert at Carnegie Hall, singling it out as a highlight.
If this new version sounds faintly familiar, it might be because you’ve spent time with Jarrett’s most recent album, Munich 2016, which was recorded about two weeks later on the same tour, and includes another treatment of the song.
The 2016 solo tour was actually the last time Jarrett took to the road. But he has remained relevant even in absentia. His tune “The Windup” appears on recent or forthcoming albums by Branford Marsalis, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Julian Lage. (It’s a piece from the book of his Belonging Quartet, whose drummer, Jon Christensen.)
As a piano touchstone, of course, his influence can be heard far and wide. And his stature only seems to keep growing; in 2015, when Jarrett turned 70, The Guardian ran a piece by Geoff Dyer hailing him as “our greatest living musician.”
However you feel about that superlative, it’s a good occasion to celebrate Jarrett and his sprawling body of work — in a solo setting, with his Standards Trio, with both 1970s quartets, or in duologue with Gary Burton or Charlie Haden.