New project, Köln Conversations

Dorian Ford

I’ve been looking for a way to acknowledge the tectonic shift in solo piano improvising that the Koln concert represents.

On the anniversary of Keith Jarrett’s Koln concert (24th January 1975), I like to remind myself of this awesome event, its impact on me, and countless others. Since 2015, I’ve been doing this, by performing this work in intimate and not so intimate spaces, starting with front rooms, and going through to churches and concert halls.

In 2019, I took the project to the Edinburgh Festival, and performed to an enthusiastic audience at Stockbridge Church, at the invitation of Graham and Townley productions, who have been supporting the project ever since.

Recent/upcoming dates include:

  • July 18th 2023 at Fidelio in Clerkenwell, London
  • August 12th 2023 in Orbigny, France
  • Monday 13th November 2023, Burgh House, Hampstead, London

It has been felt by some (and even some who are uniquely qualified to hold this opinion) that Keith Jarrett is the last of the great jazz innovators; a true jazz master, the “Last Guy”. Jarrett himself has said that in jazz, the narrative is what carries the music forward. And the narrative is the players playing. With all of Jarrett’s innovations, the solo piano concert is perhaps the most striking. But how does another player authentically engage in this narrative?

Given the German classical element In Keith’s solo performances it is perhaps no surprise that there is an excellent transcription of The Köln Concert (by Yukiko Kishinami and Kunihiko Yamashita). A few years ago I hit upon the idea of treating this transcription as a worthy addition to the classical piano canon. After working very hard at performing it this way it suddenly struck me (as clearly as when I realised this was classical piano music) that this was jazz piano music. I needed to change my approach and play intros, heads, vamps, outros and codas. I realised that these structural staples of a jazz performance, along with improvisation and quotes, needed to be there in my playing/interpretation.

And so from “The Köln Concert concert” to “Köln Conversations”.

It’s hard to ascertain or declare if I’m truly involved in the narrative but I’m certainly not any closer by talking or writing; only by playing. So on that note I’ll leave the final words to Keith: Music cannot be expressed or delivered in words. Music can’t be anything but itself.

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