Keith Jarrett maintains that these gigs – four solo piano concerts recorded over a week in Italy in 1996 – represent a pinnacle of his career. They were also the last gigs in which he played unbroken improvisations, running to 40 minutes or more at a time: soon after, he quit for two years with chronic fatigue syndrome. Two shows begin in the kind of romantically melodious moods that made his Köln concert famous (initially ballad-like on Modena; chordally sumptuous on Ferrara), while others open in more methodically assembled ways (Torino) or in fast, sinewy twists punctuated by stabbed chords (Genova). But there are delectable passages throughout, and plenty of Jarrett’s signature stamping grooves – as on Modena’s rocking vamp and the funky blues encore that ends Genova. Jarrett has always favoured exhaustive documentation, but the intensity, variety, and astonishing technical command of these performances might well persuade devoted fans and intrigued improv enthusiasts alike of his view that these were landmark moments.
John Fordham is the Guardian's main jazz critic. He has written several books on the subject, reported on it for publications including Time Out, Sounds, Wire and Word, and contributed to documentaries for radio and TV. He is a former editor of Time Out, City Limits and Jazz UK, and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3's Jazz on 3