Hymns / Spheres Keith Jarrett

Cover Hymns / Spheres

Album info



Label: ECM

Genre: Jazz

Subgenre: Contemporary Jazz

Artist: Keith Jarrett

Composer: Keith Jarrett [Non-Classical Composer]

Album including Album cover Booklet (PDF)

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  • 1Hymn of Remembrance04:11
  • 2Spheres (1st Movement)07:42
  • 3Spheres (2nd Movement)13:04
  • 4Spheres (3rd Movement)10:15
  • 5Spheres (4th Movement)12:24
  • 6Spheres (5th Movement)04:40
  • 7Spheres (6th Movement)11:25
  • 8Spheres (7th Movement)08:19
  • 9Spheres (8th Movement)05:20
  • 10Spheres (9th Movement)12:05
  • 11Hymn of Release04:10
  • Total Runtime01:33:35

Info for Hymns / Spheres

“Hymns/Spheres”, Keith Jarrett’s celebrated 1976 encounter with the Trinity organ of Ottobeuren’s Benedictine abbey, is at last released in 24bit Studio-Master quality as a double-album set remastered from the original analog tapes. “No overdubs or technical ornamentations were utilized, only the pure sound of the organ in the abbey is heard”. The pure sound, as channelled by the mind, hands, and feet of one of the great improvisers of the age. When “Hymns/Spheres” was first released in 1976, some critics made comparisons with the organ music of Ligeti, Messiaen and Reger, but time has shown this to be an essential expression of Jarrett’s creativity, original to the core.

The complete Hymns, Spheres, at last available on compact disc. Keith Jarrett’s first encounter with the Karl Joseph Riepp baroque organ of the Abbey of Ottobeuren – one of the great improvisers of the age communing with one of Europe’s most famous instruments – brought forth some truly unique music. The 1976 double LP release has long been a favourite amongst organ music aficionados as well as Jarrett’s loyal following, admired for Jarrett’s spontaneous improvisational resourcefulness, the variety of textures drawn from the instrument, and for the sheer physical power of the sound in the church, beautifully captured in the ECM recording.

When this music was first released on CD, as Spheres in 1985, it was in truncated form, with only four of the original eleven tracks. The present edition restores the joyful “Hymn of Remembrance” and “Hymn of Release” to the beginning and end of the set, and includes all nine movements of the experimental “Spheres”.

Keith Jarrett’s 1976 liner note: “These improvisations were recorded on the Trinity Organ, the larger of the two Karl Joseph Riepp (1710-1775) organs at the Benedictine Abbey Ottobeuren. No overdubs, technical ornamentations or additions were utilized, only the pure sound of the organ in the abbey is heard. Many of the unique effects, although never before used, were accomplished by pulling certain stops part way, while others remain completely open or closed. Amazingly, baroque organs have always had this capacity.” These ‘effects’ give Jarrett access to sliding pitches and notes outside the tempered scale.

Jarrett chose two tracks from Hymns, Spheres when compiling a double album of his personal favourites for ECM’s Rarum series in 2003.

Reviews from 1977:

From the New York Times: “Mr Jarrett’s latest release stands apart not only from his own canon but from almost every other record on the market. Organ improvisations are hardly unusual but a ‘jazz’ musician playing an unaccompanied baroque organ recorded on location is something new. ‘Jazz’ is in quotation marks because this has absolutely nothing to do with any known jazz tradition.... Most of the music is slow and spacey, with effects akin to electronic music, attained through a manipulation of organ stops to produce strange sonorities. It’s an exotic set, and worth the attention of the curious jazz fan, progressive rock fan, and classical avant-garde fan.”

From England’s Oxford Mail: “Jarrett’s extraordinary gift for melody and rhythm inside occasionally daunting improvisations make this a staggering record of the ability of a true musician to conjure music from the air that inspires, delights and provokes.”

From Poland’s Jazz Forum: “Jarrett continues his extravagant ECM parade with a set of church organ improvisations. It is a grandiose undertaking and though this devotional session will not be everyone’s idea of a jazz record, Jarrett’s solid and dignified music sets him right along with the true masters of organ composition. ‘Hymns, Spheres’ may prove to be an important landmark in contemporary music.”

Keith Jarrett went on to do a second set of recordings at Ottobeuren in 1980, issued as “Invocations”, in the double album set Invocations/The Moth and the Flame.

Over the years, music from Hymns, Spheres has been incorporated into the soundtracks of a number of adventurous films, most recently Ron Fricke’s ‘non-verbal’ documentary “Samsara” (2011).

Keith Jarrett, piano

Digitally remastered.

Keith Jarrett
At the end of 2008, Keith Jarrett added two concerts to his schedule at short notice – one at Paris’s Salle Pleyel (November 26), one at London’s Royal Festival Hall (December 1) . The music on “Testament” is from these concerts. Their range is compendious, Jarrett’s improvisational imagination continually uncovering new forms, in a music stirred by powerful emotions. In his liner notes, the pianist is forthright about the personal circumstances promoting a need to lose himself in the work once more.

He also reminds the reader/listener that “it is not natural to sit at a piano, bring no material, clear your mind completely of musical ideas and play something that is of lasting value and brand new.” This, however, has been the history and substance of the solo concerts since Jarrett initiated them, almost forty years ago . Over time their connection to ‘jazz’ has often become tenuous, yet Jarrett’s solo concerts, with the foregrounding of melody and the continual building, and relinquishing, of structure, are also removed from “free improvisation” as a genre. Jarrett’s solo work is effectively its own idiom, and has been subject to periodic revisions by the pianist. “In the early part of this decade, I tried to bring the format back: starting from nothing and building a universe.”

Since the “Radiance” album and the “Tokyo Solo” DVD of 2002 Jarrett has been adjusting the flow of the work, more often working with shorter blocks of material. “I continued to find a wealth of music inside this open format, stopping whenever the music told me to.” This approach distinguished “The Carnegie Hall Concert” (2006), and it is most effectively deployed in “Testament” , where the strongly-contrasting elements of the sections of the Paris concert in particular have the logic of a spontaneously-composed suite. The nerves-bared London performance (the first UK solo show in 18 years) is different again: “The concert went on and, though the beginning was a dark, searching, multi-tonal melodic triumph, by the end it somehow became a throbbing, never-to-be-repeated pulsing rock band of a concert (unless it was a church service, in which case, Hallelujah!).”

In the end, the improviser does what must be done. As Keith Jarrett said, a long time ago, “If you’re a rock climber, once you’re halfway up the face of the cliff, you have to keep moving, you have to keep going somewhere. And that’s what I do, I find a way.”

These days, however, Jarrett is rationing the number of ascents: there have been less than thirty solo concerts in the last decade, making “Testament” a special event indeed. Two further solo performances are scheduled for 2009 – at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels on October 9, and at Berlin’s Philharmonie on October 12.

Booklet for Hymns / Spheres

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