ECM Records

Keith Jarrett - The Köln Concert


ECM Records

Keith Jarrett - The Köln Concert


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A TAV Essential Listening Album.

The Köln Concert is a concert recording by the pianist Keith Jarrett of solo piano improvisations performed at the Opera House in Cologne (German: Köln) on January 24, 1975.

The double-vinyl album was released in the autumn of 1975 by the ECM Records label to critical acclaim, and went on to become the best-selling solo album in jazz history, and the all-time best-selling piano album, with sales of more than 3.5 million.

The concert was organized by 17-year-old Vera Brandes (de), then Germany’s youngest concert promoter. At Jarrett's request, Brandes had selected a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial concert grand piano for the performance. However, there was some confusion by the opera house staff and instead they found another Bösendorfer piano backstage – a much smaller baby grand – and, assuming it was the one requested, placed it on the stage. Unfortunately, the error was discovered too late for the correct Bösendorfer to be delivered to the venue in time for the evening's concert. The piano they had was intended for rehearsals only and was in poor condition and required several hours of tuning and adjusting to make it playable. The instrument was tinny and thin in the upper registers and weak in the bass register, and the pedals did not work properly. Consequently, Jarrett often used ostinatos and rolling left-hand rhythmic figures during his Köln performance to give the effect of stronger bass notes, and concentrated his playing in the middle portion of the keyboard. ECM Records producer Manfred Eicher later said: "Probably [Jarrett] played it the way he did because it was not a good piano. Because he could not fall in love with the sound of it, he found another way to get the most out of it."

Jarrett arrived at the opera house late in the afternoon and tired after an exhausting long drive from Zürich, Switzerland, where he had performed a few days earlier. He had not slept well in several nights and was in pain from back problems and had to wear a brace. After trying out the substandard piano and learning a replacement instrument was not available, Jarrett nearly refused to play and Brandes had to convince him to perform as the concert was scheduled to begin in just a few hours. The concert took place at the unusually late hour of 23:30, following an earlier opera performance. This late-night time slot was the only one the administration would make available to Brandes for a jazz concert – the first ever at the Köln Opera House. The show was completely sold out and the venue was filled to capacity with over 1,400 people at a ticket price of 4 DM ($1.72). Despite the obstacles, Jarrett's performance was enthusiastically received by the audience and the subsequent recording was acclaimed by critics. It remains his most popular recording and continues to sell well, decades after its initial release.

The performance was recorded by ECM Records engineer Martin Wieland, using a pair of Neumann U-67 vacuum-tube powered condenser microphones and a Telefunken M-5 portable tape machine. The recording is in three parts: lasting about 26 minutes, 34 minutes and 7 minutes respectively. As it was originally programmed for vinyl LP, the second part was split into sections labelled "IIa" and "IIb". The third part, labelled "IIc", was actually the final piece, a separate encore.

A notable aspect of the concert was Jarrett's ability to produce very extensive improvised material over a vamp of one or two chords for prolonged periods of time. For instance, in Part I, he spends almost 12 minutes vamping over the chords Am7 (A minor 7) to G major, sometimes in a slow, rubato feel, and other times in a bluesy, gospel rock feel. For about the last 6 minutes of Part I, he vamps over an A major theme. Roughly the first 8 minutes of Part II A is a vamp over a D major groove with a repeated bass vamp in the left hand, and in Part IIb, Jarrett improvises over an F# minor vamp for about the first 6 minutes.

Subsequent to the release of The Köln Concert, Jarrett was asked by pianists, musicologists and others, to publish the music. For years he resisted such requests since, as he said, the music played was improvised "on a certain night and should go as quickly as it comes." In 1990, Jarrett finally agreed on publishing an authorized transcription but with the recommendation that every pianist intending to play the piece should use the recording itself as the final word. A new interpretation of The Köln Concert was published in 2006 by Polish pianist Tomasz Trzcinski on his album Blue Mountains. A transcription for classical guitar has also been published by Manuel Barrueco.

The album was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. - Wiki



A          KÖLN, January 24, 1975 Part I              26:15

B          KÖLN, January 24, 1975 Part II a           15:00

C          KÖLN, January 24, 1975 Part II b          19:19

D         KÖLN, January 24, 1975 Part II c           6:59

- Recorded live at the opera in Köln, Germany January 24, 1975


  • 180g Audiophile High Quality Pressing
  • Double LP
  • Gatefold Jacket


  • Keith Jarrett, piano


About Keith Jarrett:

Keith Jarrett’s ECM discography embraces solo improvisation, duets, trios, quartets, original compositions, multi-instrumental ventures, masterpieces of the classical repertoire and wide-ranging explorations of the Great American Songbook.

Jarrett was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in May 1945. He took his first piano lesson before his third birthday and gave his debut solo recital aged seven. “I grew up with the piano,” he has said, “I learned its language while I learned to speak.”

His earliest training was classical, but by the age of 15 his piano lessons had ceased and Jarrett’s interest in jazz was burgeoning. He turned down an opportunity to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and in 1964 took the decisive step of moving to New York to establish himself in the jazz world. After a spell touring with Art Blakey’s New Jazz Messengers, Jarrett joined Charles Lloyd’s quartet in 1966. He also played organ and electric piano with Miles Davis in 1970 and 1971.

Jarrett’s association with ECM dates from November 1971, when he and producer Manfred Eicher first collaborated on the hugely influential solo piano album Facing You, eight short pieces which, in Eicher’s words, “hold together like a suite”. The album also prefigured the solo piano concerts which would be such a defining aspect of Jarrett’s career.

In 1973 ECM organised an eighteen-concert European tour, consisting solely of Jarrett’s solo improvisations. The Köln Concert (1975) has unsurprisingly passed into legend: a multi-million-selling album that has been the subject of books and a complete transcription. But Köln should not eclipse the achievement of the whole sequence of improvised concerts, a genre which Jarrett effectively created. After the success of that first solo tour, Jarrett has continued to pursue the improvised solo concert format, the decades of his career studded with records of his endlessly fertile imagination, usually referred to simply by where they took place: Paris, Vienna, Lausanne, Carnegie Hall, La Scala...

Jarrett has been a member of several outstanding groups. In the mid-1970s he began recording with his so-called “European Quartet” consisting of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen. Their recordings include Belonging, My Song, Nude Ants, Personal Mountains and Sleeper. No less essential is his contemporaneous “American Quartet” work with Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums) and Dewey Redman (sax), whose output included The Survivors’ Suite and Eyes of the Heart (both 1976).  The American Quartet extended the range of Jarrrett’s trio with Haden and Motian. The early trio’s work is documented on Hamburg ’72.

In the early 1980s Jarrett formed his “Standards Trio” with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, which proved to be one of the most fertile and long-lasting partnerships in jazz history. Over the years they have toured and released an unparalleled series of albums of standards and freely improvised sets, including the 6-CD set At the Blue Note, an extraordinary record of three extraordinary nights in June 1994, about which the New York Times wrote: "Jarrett makes each new note sound like a discovery... The music whispered and glimmered, seeking a pure, incorporeal song.”

In 1987, Jarrett initiated a series of recordings of some of the great monuments of the classical keyboard repertoire with Bach’s Wohltempierte Klavier, Book I, which was followed by the Goldberg Variations (1989) and the second book of Wohltempierte Klavier (1990). For a pianist with such a fine command of voicing, Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, was perhaps a natural next step: "It didn't feel like I was playing someone else's music," Jarrett said of his first encounter with these works. "[The pieces] are coming from some strange quirky place that I'm familiar with.” The New York Times was just one of many to hail this award-winning recording: no mere crossover curiosity, “Jarrett has finally staked an indisputable claim to distinction in the realm of classical music”.

40 years on from his ECM debut, Facing You, Rio (2011) blazed with as much energy and invention as any of his solo concerts from the past four decades, while his duet sessions with the late bassist Charlie Haden (Jasmine and Last Dance) reveal the players at their most intimate and introspective: “When we play together it's like two people singing,” Jarrett said of these recordings.

ECM marked Jarrett’s 70th birthday with two simultaneous releases, a mid-80s recording of Barber’s piano concerto and Bartok’s third, and Creation, a nine-piece suite drawn from concerts in the pianist’s 2014 concert tour. Creation is amongst the most strongly lyrical of Jarrett's recent solo releases, the choice of music emphasizing pieces in which there is a sense of song being born, voices striving to be heard. It also offers the most up-to-the minute account of Jarrett's uncanny capacity to construct compelling music in real-time: his melodic-harmonic imagination as an improviser and his ability to consistently find and shape new forms remain, after all these years of solo concerts, remarkable.  - ECM Records


Item description:        


Keith Jarret


The Köln Concert


ECM Records


2 × Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, Gatefold Cover, 180 Gram



Release Date:





Contemporary Jazz, Avant Garde, Free Jazz, Post Bop, Piano, Live

Catalog No:

ECM 1064/65