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Keith Jarrett plays “I love you porgy” (G. Gershwin) Transcriptions book (recorded 1998)

Keith Jarrett plays “I love you porgy” (G. Gershwin) from the album “The Melody at Night, with you” (sheet music transcriptions book available from our Library)

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Keith Jarrett’s album: “The Melody At Night, With You”

The Melody At Night, With You is, perhaps, Keith Jarrett’s most intimate album. It is comprised of solo piano renderings of jazz ballads and folk songs, played with unmistakable affection. Jarrett dispenses with the jazz soloist’s conventional emphasis on dexterity, the ‘clever’ phrase, the virtuosic sleight-of-hand. Instead he strips these songs to their melodic essence and, gently, lays bare their emotional core.

This transcription, which has Keith Jarrett’s personal approval, was worked out at the keyboard and aims, above all, for maximum playability within the greatest tonal range. Friedrich Grossnick, as an experienced pedagogue, has produced an outstanding score with particular sensitivity to Jarrett’s interpretation thus enabling its faithful recreation on the piano.  

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The album’s title must come from pianist Keith Jarrett’s longstanding love affair with standards. How else to explain the nature of this project? The Melody At Night, With You is Jarrett’s return to form after some serious scrapes with chronic fatigue syndrome (see DB Sept. ’99).

Not surprisingly, the playing on this solo-piano recording is subdued, but does not lack for earnestness, passion or focus. The music is exquisite, unnerving and disarming, as the virtuoso bypasses flourish, instead choosing to speak plainly. (Jarrett’s characteristic vocalizations play no part here.) In fact, The Melody At Night, With You suggests lullaby music, with a starry night overhead (“My Wild Irish Rose”). What keeps everything “indoors” is the voice of the piano itself, having been recorded in Jarrett’s somewhat arid-sounding home studio, leaving the listener feeling somewhat alone.

That sense of aloneness, with hints of melancholy, pervades such songs as the traditional “Shenandoah,” here given a gospel, hymn-like quality, or the album’s highlight, “Blame It In My Youth,” beautifully embellished as it is by Jarrett’s own “Meditation” coda.

Except for Ellington’s “I’ve Got It Bad, And That Ain’t Good” and his “Meditation,” there is no real improvising here, only intimate brushes with melody. Missing are some of those chords that have become trademark Jarrett. Consequently, a plainness and stateliness is heard with some of these recordings. “I Loves You Porgy” and “Something To Remember You By” carry such moments, as Jarrett seems to overwork the material, suggesting a stiffness that need not be there.

Yes, this is Jarrett’s first solo “standards” album. Why he hasn’t recorded one before, having such a tradition of solo-piano recordings, is a mystery. In a sense, this pared-down, iconoclastic approach is classic Jarrett: Simple yet radical, no one “just” plays the music in jazz these days; there “must” always be theme and variation. Not here.

The album contains eight jazz standards, two traditional songs, and, uncharacteristically for Jarrett, only one improvisation (“Meditation”, the second half of track six).

Sheet music book Contents:

I Loves You Porgy
I Got It Bat And That Ain’t Good
Don’t Ever Leave Me
Someone To Watch Over Me
My Wild Irish Rose
Blame It On My Youth (with Meditation)
Something To Remember You By
Be My Love
Shenandoah
I’m Through With Love

The Melody At Night With You
Personnel: Keith Jarrett, piano.

The sheet music transcriptions book is available from our Library.

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