I was privileged to hear Jarrett perform in Manchester
, UK. The solo concert was excellent, ranging from abstract and harmonically dense neo-classical impro to rolling, singing, gospel
. But what stayed with me the most was an odd incident during the quiet, tinkling opening of one piece.
Jarrett is an intense musician, and the audience of about 1,500 people were in absolute silence as he started developing a quiet, tentative, and exploratory improvisation on the upper third of the keyboard, hunched over the instrument in a state of pure concentration, when someone from in the audience made a minor, but uncalled-for noise (I think they may have been taking a picture).
Jarrett immediately ceased playing. He visually interrogated the audience for the source of the distraction and had no problem locating a suspect (a fine pair of ears and great directional hearing, that man!) He asked "did you make that noise?"
"Then please leave, right now. I'm not going to start playing until you go."
A tiny pause, and the guilty one started making his way, shuffling between the seats, out of the theatre.
As he went, Jarrett chatted with the audience: "Now how am I supposed to get back into that?"
Stunned silence, until someone called out "A joint!"
"No! That's how you'd get back into it!" (laughter).
He went back to the piano, and carried on from where he'd left off, perfectly recapturing the mood he'd initially created, and we all settled back to enjoy the piece.
By this time, the noisy person had made his way to the exit, and he slammed the door, loudly, as he left.
Jarrett simply looked up from the keyboard, without stopping, and smiled sweetly at the audience.