Keith Jarrett: The Impulse! Story

Rating: 3.7/10
Rated as
: Anthology
Compilation Status
: Newbie Baiting
Released: 2006
Recorded: 1973–1976
Specific Genre: ECM Style Jazz
Main Genre: Jazz
Undertones
: Avant-Garde Jazz, Post-Bop, Bebop, Piano Jazz
Label: Impulse!

1 De Drums 2 The Rich (and the Poor) 3 Blue Streak 4 Treasure Island 5 Introduction and Yaqui Indian Folk Song 6 Victoria 7 Everything that Lives Laments 8 Konya 9 Bop-Be 10 Mushi Mushi 11 Silence

Good music, very questionable reason of existence as a compilation

Problems first: This compilation is called „The Impulse Story“, so the title suggests a sort of narrative for Jarrett’s American Quartet recordings for that label (1973–1976) – or it should, anyway. More complete compilations and box sets of Jarrett’s Impulse output had been issued before this (occupying both in name and completeness the „Impulse Years“ tag), and the question arises to what end there has to be a single disc compilation of that period. A plot? Sure. But there is no plot here, so let’s take a look.

Academically (and moronically) reconstructing the track choice, you‘ll be left with the knowledge that seven of the eleven tracks (make that ten actually – „Victoria“ wasn‘t issued on Jarrett‘s original Impulse albums – but it was first released on The Impulse Years: 1973–1974, so there is no point to view it as the selling point here) stem from just two of the eight albums while three albums aren’t represented at all. You‘ll also notice that the chronology hasn’t been touched (leading to the fact that the four tracks of Treasure Island come in a row). And you‘ll notice that the track choice as well as the liner notes were done by jazz expert Ashley Kahn. I was hoping to find an answer to the choices he made in his liner notes, and he only hints at it by mentioning that the last four albums for Impulse stem from roughly the same sessions Jarrett did in 1975/76. As there is no other information directly relating to the track choice, we’re left with a bunch of questions (why is it called story? Why such a stress on Treasure Island? Why a single disc compilation about a guy whose work has been documented excellently and comprehensively, and whose specialty were 20-minute-suites?), we‘re left to construct a) the scheme that this was called story to imply a personal and artistical ‚development‘ of Jarrett‘s Impulse years and b) the suspicion that the last four albums didn’t contribute so well to represent that arc (as they were part of temporarily close sessions as opposed to long evolution processes). Suspicion also arises this is a cash-in to lure in newbies. Who needs this?

Call me picky, but I simply expect better from the normally unerring Impulse!-label.

Economics aside, let’s take a look at the material. Like the albums it’s taken from, it is quite alright to excellent, a particular stand-out is the opener „De Drums“, with its swinging, swirling, breezy and moving pattern, akin to cape jazz, followed by some shorter tunes that all share the same airy and weightless atmosphere – an overall summer feeling permeates this. Things get a bit edgier in the last third, when the group shifted its sound away from the acoustic improvs from the beginning, and went for a less free-flowing, harder bopping approach once again (very sneaky by calling that last album Bop-Be). I prefer to listen to the first half, excellent for mornings and sunny afternoons, very laid-back music. Maybe that was the point, to lounge-ify Jarrett‘s Impulse output, possibly cross-financed by Starbucks. A thin plot: Good music, very questionable reason of existence as a compilation. As I said, I can’t imagine anyone seriously interested in this who wouldn’t want the albums in the first place.

1: Fort Yawuh (1973)
2–5: Treasure Island (1974)
6: from the Backhand (1975) sessions, but first released on The Impulse Years: 1973–1974 (1997)
7: Mysteries (1976)
8: Byablue (1977)
9–11: Bop-Be (1977)

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