A man sits alone on a concert hall stage, his head lowered, focused on the black and white grand piano keys in front of him: this was the final live performance from revered pianist, Keith Jarrett.
On July 3, 2016, he gave a concert at the Bela Bartok Concert Hall in Budapest. He had barely changed in the 41 years since he put on the now famous improvised hour and a half concert at the Cologne Opera on January 24, 1975. The recording of that show, the “Köln Concert” album, went on to become the best-selling solo-artist jazz record of all time. It catapulted Jarrett to the status of jazz legend.
The pianist was born on May 8, 1945, the day WWII ended in Europe, in the eponymous town of Billy Joel’s song “Allentown”, an industrial city in the US state of Pennsylvania. Jarrett, the oldest of five sons from a Christian family, began playing the piano at the age of three. To the delight of his grandparents, immigrants from Eastern Europe, he picked up a classical repertoire, playing Bach, Brahms, Beethoven and Mussorgsky.
From Mussorgsky to Miles Davis
On April 12, 1953, at three o’clock in the afternoon, as his biographer Wolfgang Sandner wrote, the child prodigy climbed onto the stage of a community center in Allentown and held a solo concert, displaying his ability for the classical baroque and romantic works.