A monumentally talented maverick of immense productivity, Keith Jarrett has become a kind of jazz tradition all of his own over the past four decades. On his 2006 Carnegie Hall solo album, Jarrett crammed his past and his present into a tour de force that ran from ragtime to free-jazz. Here's where much of that began, on the assortment of trio recordings (with the bassist Charlie Haden and the drummer Paul Motian), jazz-funk forays (with the vibraphonist Gary Burton and others) and Ornette Coleman-influenced music Jarrett was playing between 1968 and 1975 - either side of his short electric-Miles career, and just before the legendary Köln Concert. Jarrett is not so rhythmically free, but otherwise some might regard it as the most joyous and varied jazz playing of his career.
His purposeful yet poetic Bill Evans feel is all over tracks such as Life Between the Exit Signs; Lisbon Stomp sounds as if he's trying to play Latin music without losing his dignity; hints at the Köln Concert's ringing melody turns are apparent in the title track and in Standing Outside; and Grow Your Own (from 1970's Throb, with Gary Burton) is a timeless early jazz-rock classic. As an introduction to why Jarrett got where he did, and why he's stayed there, it's invaluable - though the later Survivors' Suite, with the Ornettish quartet including Dewey Redman, would be a vital complement.