Keith Jarrett makes a lot dumb noises with his face while simultaneously improvising genius level music with the rest of his body.

It’s distracting but involuntary… I hope.

Ironically, he finds the noises his audience makes to be the REAL distraction. On more than one occasion, Mr. Jarrett has not only refused to continue on with his performance but also scolded his paying audience members for making noises such as coughing.

COUGHING

If you haven’t heard about any of this, start here.

If you haven’t heard/seen Keith Jarrett do his things, start with this (skip to 1:40 for the real show)

This article details the events surrounding this infamous Youtube clip;

The audience seems to be on his side through a few comments but quickly grow weary of it and turn on him at the 2:30 mark when an audience member shouts “Just play!” and “Maybe you need to just deal with it!” and “Could you be a bigger asshole?”

He has also been known to stop concerts for extended periods of time to have a monitor adjusted to his liking or to have the entire piano replaced.

A few quotes:

“Fact is, you can’t put 3,000 living animals into an acoustically sensitive space and expect absolute silence. Life makes sounds. And Jarrett’s apparent belief in the artist needing needing and deserving absolute control is a romantic fossil, at best. Not to mention a delusion for anything with a price tag attached to it. Besides, doesn’t improvisation at least partly mean working with what’s there?” David Becker

“If you’re concentrating on listening nearly as hard as he’s concentrating on playing, you’d be conscious of your emissions and his requests that you control them.” Patrick Jarenwattananon (admittedly, I’m posting this out of context so check out Pat’s full article on the issue)

And my personal favorite… “In the mid-1970s, Todd Barkan, then owner of Keystone Korner in San Francisco, grew tired of Jarrett’s constant complaining. He bought a baby bottle, filled it with warm milk and set it on the piano during a set. Barkan says the complaints stopped, for a while.” Thomas Conrad

There’s gotta be a comic in there.

I’ll leave you with this unattributed account of Keith Jarrett’s behavior and relationship with his audience. You get to hear his side of it a little more here which is interesting. (If someone figures out where this was originally posted, let me know!)

He started to play a very delicate piece (another classical improvisation).
Started soft and seemed to get even softer. After about 5 minutes… a very
loud cough stops him in the middle of the piece.

Jarrett was in mid motion to a chord when interrupted and slumped at the
piano, his right hand grasping the frame. The audience gasp at the sudden
termination of the piece. Then a pause followed by a small ripple of
applause. I guess the audience thought “well… that’s what you do at the
end of a piece right? Clap?”

Jarrett hold his right hand up to the audience and solemnly says, “no, no…”
to the clappers.

Someone coughs again…

KJ: “Yeah… good one”

Then… the magic already gone, he turns to the audience and says:

KJ: “I don’t know whether i’m allowed to speak in English here but…,
do you notice how I NEVER cough?”

(Audience laughs)

He then proceeds to explain to the audience:

KJ: “I have a certain reputation (rep-u-tash-eon) for being disgusted by
audience noise. Well… the potential for audience noise…”

KJ: “The music is very fragile and become MORE fragile as it progresses…
I get to a slow passage and ‘cough’… it’s gone”

He also insists on saying the words that are the same in English as French
twice: The english “FRAgile” followed by the French “fraGILE” etc… This
gets groans from the French audience!

Then I think he tried to laugh it off with “Now… where was I?!” which
does get a laugh from the audience.

He starts to play and is interrupted by more coughing. He abruptly stops
after one chord. Then says something about “Concerto for piano and cough”.
He strikes a chord and the audience don’t really get it and cough at
different times. He mummer something about how the orchestra usually come
in together…!

KJ: “And now the national anthem…”

Then, after discussion, I think he beings again to play, but is interrupted
by more coughing. Then, he left saying, “I am outta here” and walked off
the stage.

The audience responded by first booing him on the exit and then clapping
wildly asking for him to return.

Then what followed was a strange discussion…

I think he said “Where has concentration in the world gone?”

KJ: “I cannot do this if you can’t concentrate.”

KJ: “If you have influenza or something, then you now have permission to
leave.”

Audience member: “We love you Keith!”

Audience member: “But we are your sponsors….”

KJ: “Good… we have a forum here. I wish we could do this in my
country.” (I as not being American – or Republican – find this very
amusing!)

KJ: “I don’t play Billie Joel songs…. if you think you’re my sponsor,
then you also have permission to leave”

[More clapping]

KJ: “When I play, what do you expect from me?”

Audience member: “Your emotion”

KJ: “Good… I heard someone say ‘your emotion’… And what would you
expect from someone if you were giving them your emotions?”

Audience member: “Silence”

[KJ nods with approval of the response]

KJ: “This music is for YOU (looks all round at the audience). I only get
one take. ONE take…”

Then… as he approached the piano…

KJ: “I’m not going to explain how difficult this is… but do you see
anyone else in the world do it?”

He follows up an encore of “My Song”. The audience recognize the and start
to clap. They are then “shushed” by other audience members into silence.
This somewhat reminds me of a classroom where the children have just been
told off by the teacher.

Then, a further Encore of As Time Goes By and When I Fall In Love. There are
moment in both the last two where people cough and Jarrett looks straight at
the audience and shakes his head in disapproval.

He bows, exits, and the light go up.